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Astonishing. Astonishing!

Also known as Christina Mirabilis, which is fancy Latin, she was born in the town of Saint-Trond in 1150 CE, in the diocese of Liege, in Belgium because apparently if a saint is going to appear in the blog on Obscure Saint Friday, they must be Belgian.

She, along with her two sisters, were orphaned when she was 15. All three were quite religious, and some sources say that due to her intense interior life (i.e., she prayed a lot), Christina was extremely frail and prone to illness. It could also be due to the fact that she was an orphan in the Middle Ages. Just sayin’. Anyway, one day she had a seizure and died.

As she was lying in her coffin during the funeral Mass, she suddenly came back to life while the people attending were singing the Agnus Dei. Not only did she come back to life, she levitated into the rafters of the church and stayed there until the Mass was over, because the scent of sin on the people was too strong. She claimed to have died and gone to Hell, where she had seen many people she recognized, and then to Purgatory, where she saw many more. Jesus gave her the option of staying in Heaven then, or going back and helping more people out of Purgatory. She chose the Right Choice (save more people), prompting me to wonder what would have happened if she’d opted to stay in Heaven. Was this a trick question or something?

Having been revived, she proceeded to cause havoc, under the premise of “saving” people. She would jump up into tree branches and stay there for days or weeks at a time; she would curl up into a ball in the snow to pray, she shut herself in ovens, where the townspeople could hear her screaming*, because she was suffering for the people in purgatory. She would jump into the river mid-winter and allow herself to be dragged under the water by the mill wheel, but during all of this, she was never harmed.

The sources differ a little on why she did this: a few it was to suffer for the people currently in purgatory, some say it was because she could smell sin on people, and would do anything to get away from it. A few modern doctors have tentatively diagnosed her with epilepsy.

Christina also had pretty useful breasts. When she was came back from the dead, she lived in the woods for a few months, nourished only by the milk that suddenly sprung from her “virginal” breasts. Another time, she was in a wooden yoke in town, and oil came from her nipples. When it dripped on her wounds, it healed them, and nourished her.

Unsurprisingly, some people thought she was possessed by demons. Her sisters hired someone to catch her and keep her locked up, and he broke he leg with a cudgel when he did. After chaining her to a pillar they put a splint on the leg, but she escaped during the night anyway, showing up later unharmed. She also had ecstatic visions in which she led the dead to purgatory, and those in purgatory to Heaven.

She spent her last few years at St. Catherine’s convent, where she obeyed the prioress completely. She died in 1224 there. July 24 is the day to put yourself in an oven.

*Why, hello nightmares.

St. Christina Mirabilis, Vita (in Latin; the English translation is a copyrighted book & isn’t free)

St. Christina the Astonishing

A scholarly essay about St. Christina (partly about the spiritual / physical divide in the legend)

Butler’s Lives of the Saints

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