The 20th of July is the Feast Day for Wilgefortis, the bearded woman. Wilgefortis was for a time considered the patron saint of “relief from tribulations,” particularly by women who wish to be liberated from their husbands.
The story goes that the teenaged girl prayed to God to disfigure her so that her father would not force her to marry a pagan prince. She took a vow of virginity and God answered her prayers by causing a full beard to grow on her chin. Her father responded by having her crucified.
However, the story of Wilgefortis was debunked in the 16th century as pure fantasy. The story, it seems, started with simple folk trying to understand why someone with a beard was wearing a dress:
The legend is not a Christian adaptation of the Hermaphroditus of Greek mythology or of other androgynous myths of pagan antiquity, as it cannot be traced back further than the fifteenth century. It rather originated from a misinterpretation of the famous “Volto Santo” of Lucca, a representation of the crucified Saviour, clothed in a long tunic, His eyes wide open, His long hair falling over His shoulders, and His head covered with a crown. In the early Middle Ages it was common to represent Christ on the cross clothed in a long tunic, and wearing a royal crown; but since the eleventh century this practice has been discontinued. Thus it happened that copies of the “Volto Santo” of Lucca, spread by pilgrims and merchants in various parts of Europe, were no longer recognized as representations of the crucified Saviour, but came to be looked upon as pictures of a woman who had suffered martyrdom.
She was officially removed from the Church Calender in 1969, for good reason but somehow disappointing, nevertheless. These days, women wishing to be liberated from their husbands would better look to Saint Rita of Cascia, the saint of difficult marriages and impossible causes.
Speaking of impossible causes, on the 20th of June in 2013, we tried to take stunning photographs from all over the world. Look how close we came to succeeding:
And here are the sainted souls that posted them:
Why don’t you join us? It’s easy:
- Take a photograph on a Saturday
- Upload the photograph to a friendly photo-hosting site
- Send a tweet to @SatScenes with the url and location
I’m looking forward to seeing your Saturday Scene in the next edition!