St Ninian’s Cave

St Ninian’s Cave stands at the rear of a collapse in part of the rocky headland at the north western end of the stony beach at Physgill, that looks out over Port Castle Bay,some three miles south west of Whithorn. To reach it, there is a car park at Kidsdale, which is signed for St Ninian’s Cave. The walk begins along the path which is signed from a corner of the car park. It then runs down the wooded Physgill Glen. At one point the path divides, with a higher…

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Alvastra Abbey: the first Cistercian settlement in Sweden

The ruins of the oldest and most important Cistercian monastery of medieval Sweden preserve a part of local history from before the Protestant Reformation, when people donated land or money to gain easier access to heaven after their deaths. This monastery was founded in 1143 when King Sverker the Elder and his queen, who wanted to gain favor with the church, donated land to the French Clairvaux monks and invited them to come and build the sanctuary. Monks, who belonged to the influential Cistercian Order, brought from Clairvaux modern methods…

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2nd March: Holy Wells Day

Of Norse origin, Ceadda was a deity connected to sacred, healing and underground waters and therefore also to springs and wells. Historians have not yet come to the conclusion whether Ceadda was a god or a goddess, although many favor the latter hypothesis, given the main attributes connected to the chthonic sphere and healing waters. Later she passed into the Celtic pantheon and here her symbol became the Crann Bethadh, that is, the Tree of Life. The tree ideally connected the underground world with the celestial one and its roots…

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February 3: Saint Biagio’s Panettone

February 3th is the day dedicated to the holy protector of the throath, Saint Biagio (known in English as Saint Blaise). Saint Biagio worship is widely spread in the Christian world, especially the area of Milan, Varese, Como, various areas of Piedmont but also in Southern Italy, where locals have been devoted to this Saint for centuries. But why is he a protector of the throat and not, for example, the stomach or other parts or body? Historically, Saint Biagio was physician and bishop of the Armenian city of Sebaste…

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January 17: Saint Anthony the Abbot, The Great, or The Father of Monks

According to traditions, Saint Anthony the Abbot, celebrated on this day, is Patron Saint of Amputees, animals, basket makers, brush makers, butchers, cemetery workers, domestic animals, epileptics, gravediggers, hermits, skin diseases, but also hogs, pigs and swine. The life of Anthony will remind many people of Saint Francis of Assisi. At 20, he was so moved by the Gospel message, “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor” (Mark 10:21b), that he actually did just that with his large inheritance. However, he is different from Francis in that…

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January 12th: the feast day of Saint Benedict Biscop

January 12th marks the feast day of Saint Benedict Biscop (born about 628, Northumbria, died on Jan 12th 689/690). He was the founder and first abbot of the monasteries of SS. Peter at Wearmouth, and Paul at nearby Jarrow, and he is famous for his adventures on the continent, for enriching Northumbria with holy treasures gathered abroad and as the father of Benedictine monasticism in England. For istance, he made at least five journeys to Rome in his lifetime, which was quite a feat in the seventh century. Visits that…

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Gleann Cholm Cille and St. Columba’s trail

We are in Ireland. The remote valley of Gleann Cholm Cille, in western Donegal, was already a holy site when Stonehenge was but a vision taking shape. Named after Columba, an Irish abbot and missionary evangelist credited with spreading Christianity in what is today Scotland, it is the setting for a pilgrimage on the anniversary of the saint’s death in 597AD. The three-mile journey (or ‘Turas’) is typically performed between the eve of 9 June (the saint’s feast day), and 15 August (the feast of the Assumption). Local tradition says…

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Francesc Canals i Ambrós: the Saint of Poblenou

Francesc Canals i Ambrós was born in Barcelona in 1877. He was a very kind young boy who always helped everyone and was consequently very beloved by neighbors and acquaintances. When he was 14 years old, he went to work in the popular Barcelonese store “El Siglo” and quickly earned his reputation as a good person by distributing his salary to the neediest several times. However, this was not the only thing that made him popular: people believed that Francesc had also some paranormal abilities such as guessing the time…

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The fascinating story of Nocino, the witches’ liqueur.

Patron saints. Every Italian town has one and a local public holiday for celebrating their heavenly protector. In some italian regions, San Giovanni Battista or John the Baptist, is venerated with evening bonfires or fireworks and the night between 23 and 24 June, is also linked to the preparation of a culinary specialty handed down from ancient times: the harvesting of green walnuts to make the liqueur nocino. Many families still preserve the “secret family recipe” of nocino, a liqueur made from green walnuts, often enriched with those particular herbs…

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Is Saint Corona the patron saint of epidemics?

Did you know Aachen Cathedral, Western Germany, may be able to claim a special spiritual connection with the global coronavirus pandemic? It is said that the cathedral, one of Europe’s oldest, house the relics of Saint Corona herself. What’s more, Saint Corona is believed to be the patron saint of protection against plague. Ironically, locals had begun renewing its focus on Saint Corona more than a year ago, well before the novel virus had spread as a public health threat and, originally, Aachen Cathedral had planned to put the saint’s…

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March, 17: It’s St Patrick’s Day!

All we known that March 17 is St Patrick’s Day, a cultural and religious holiday celebrated every year in Ireland and by Irish communities around the world. The celebration marks the anniversary of Saint Patrick’s death in the fifth century and represents the arrival of Christianity in the country. Historically the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol were lifted for the day, which has encouraged and propagated the holiday’s tradition of alcohol consumption. On St Patrick’s Day, it is customary to wear shamrocks, green clothing or green accessories. St…

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6# Samichlaus, the beer from Austria brewed only on Saint Nicholas’s Day.

Like Santa Claus, the brewers of Samichlaus beer carry out a very special task each December, when Austria’s Schloss Eggenberg brewery prepares a batch of Samichlaus on Saint Nicholas’s Day, just today, December 6! Samichlaus (Santa Claus in English) then is aged for 10 months, to be released the following winter and the result is a lager with notes of raisin, malt, and caramel. At 14 percent alcohol by volume, the drink, made in the a very strong style known as doppelbock, was once considered the strongest beer in the…

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5# Sinterklaas Pepernoten – Netherlands

Pepernoten (literally pepper nuts) are little, brown spice cookies very popular before and during the Dutch holiday Sinterklaasavond, or Saint Nicholas’s Eve. Sinterklaasavond occurs on the night of December 5 when the patron saint of children, Sinterklaas (de Sint, or formally: Sint Nicolaas, from whom the modern Santa Claus evolved), distributes presents and sweet treats across the country. Sinterklaas is an elderly, stately and serious man with white hair and a long, full beard, supposed to live in Spain. He wears a long red cape with golden fringes over a…

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Rome: Here lies the head of the patron saint of lovers, St. Valentine.

We are in Rome again, and even in the Italian capital there are some singular “oddities”. After the doll hospital, I talk you about a skull that resides in a glass reliquary in a small basilica, the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, surrounded by flowers. Lettering painted across the forehead identify the owner as none other than of the patron saint of lovers, St. Valentine. However, knowing just exactly whose skull it is, of course, is complicated. First off, there was more than one Catholic saint known as Saint…

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