This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

March 18 -- Feast of Saint Ung

The saint was really named Narcissus; the name Ung will be clear later.  There's a multi-day celebration of him at the end of October, but a single-day feast on March 18.

Narcissus and the Holy Swarm
Narcissus was a fourth century bishop of Girona (northeastern Catalonia) who spread the Word to Augsburg, baptizing and consecrating and doing bishopy things, accompanied every step of the way by his faithful deacon, Felix.  When they got back to Gerona, they were pretty promptly martyred.  Of particular note was his conversion of an especially immoral prostitute named Afra, who was burned at the stake for failing to swear allegiance to the Roman Emperor shortly after becoming a Christian.  The story goes that the idolaters busted her for harboring a bishop in her house.  Somehow Narcissus got away and she wound up on the pyre. 

Don't mess with Girona
          In 1285, Pope Martin IV declared a crusade against King Peter III of Aragon, Count of Barcelona, and King of Sicily.  It was the last little title that got him in trouble, since Pope Marty thought Sicily belonged to him, and he had already given it to Charles, Count of Valois, son of the the French king, Philip the Bold.  Confused?  All Europe is at war over control of Sicily, so naturally they're fighting in Catalonia. 

You must be wondering what a fourth century martyr has to do with a thirteenth century war.  When Philip's men overran Girona, the French soldiers decided to cap their victory by desecrating the relics of Saint Narcissus.  They cracked open his crypt and hauled him out, only to be swarmed by thousands of angry insects.  Some reports say hornets, other say biting flies.  Either way, they apparently inflicted heavy casualties in the French.  They went up the nostrils and anuses of the horses, causing crashing and rolling and widespread dying.  One estimate says four thousand horses and twenty thousand troops died.  That seems a little high to me, but then again, if the French were thrown into confusion and routed by Peter's troops, it's not impossible. 
Southern icon of St. Ung

The next day, a carpenter volunteered to build a wooden casket for the relics.  A day after that, another deadly swarm came from the box, attacking the French army that had camped nearby.  Disease spread from those whom the flies bit to their comrades, decimating the French army and ending Marty's so-called Crusade.  Philip died in October 1285 and Peter died the month following. 

And St. Ung?  Stung?  Yeah, I know. 

No comments: