Saints of Creative Spirits (4): St. Vitus, the Saint of Dancers
We continue with this week’s special feature called “Saints of Creative Spirits”. We look into the lives of the patron saints of creative spirits like artists, dancers, musicians and writers.
Today, I bring you Saint Vitus, the Patron Saint of Dancers.
Patron Saint of Dancers
Saint Vitus was born c. 290 in Sicily. Saint Vitus lived during the joint reigns of two Roman Emperors. The Roman Emperor Maximian, who was Roman Emperor for the Western Empire from 286 to 305 and Diocletian (r.284-305)who mounted some of the fiercest persecutions of the early Church especially in the East of the Roman Empire. This was an extremely dangerous time to adhere to the Christian faith due to persecutions of the Roman Emperors. Saint Vitus was the son of a Sicilian senator named Hylas. The family adhered to the Pagan Roman Gods but at the age of twelve Vitus converted to Christianity. His father was so furious that he had his son and his associates arrested and whipped. They were released and moved on to Rome. His links with Roman nobility gained Vitus access to the royal court of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. It is said that Vitus cured the son of the Emperor of evil spirits. A sacrifice to the Roman gods was planned in thanks for the cure. Vitus was unable to participate due his Christian beliefs and when this emerged he was accused of being a sorcerer and practising magic to effect the cure. He and his friends were arrested and condemned to death in the arena. Legend tells that the wild beasts and lions refused to attack Vitus and he was killed by the terrible fate of being boiled in oil.
Date of Death: A.D. 303.
Cause of Death: Boiled in oil in Lucania, Italy
Feast Day: June 15th.
Why is Saint Vitus the patron saint of dancers? (and of those afflicted with the nervous disorder known as the Saint Vitus Dance). Legend has it that when his father looked in upon him through the keyhole of the dungeon into which he had been cast for openly professing himself a Christian, he beheld him dancing with seven beautiful angels.
How is Saint Vitus represented in Christian Art?
Saint Vitus is represented in Christian Art with a cauldron of boiling oil, the instrument of his martyrdom. Sometimes, too, he has a lion beside him, in allusion to his exposure to lions in the amphitheatre; or a wolf, which is said to have kept faithful watch over his remains. Another of his of his attributes is a cock, from his habit of early rising; hence he is often invoked by persons who are addicted to oversleeping themselves in the morning. In all cases he is represented as a very beautiful youth.