A patron saint against cold weather

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St. Sebaldus (died c.770)

 

Feast day: Aug. 19

Even if your family came to America from southern Germany, it’s unlikely that you’ve heard much about St. Sebaldus. He’s one of those saints who was popular in the Old Country — especially in Nuremberg, his hometown — but who never got any traction in the United States. Nonetheless, Sebaldus deserves more attention.

 

St. Sebaldus was an English monk, most likely a Benedictine, who knew St. Willibald, his brother St. Winebald, and their sister St. Walburga. All of them had been invited by their cousin, St. Boniface, to come to Germany and help him plant the faith among the tribes. Sebaldus joined the German mission, dedicating himself to the region in around Nuremberg.

 

Sebaldus became a beloved missionary and after his death he became a well-beloved local saint. St. Sebaldus was venerated so greatly that during the Reformation, when Nuremberg’s Lutherans took over his church, they did not vandalize nor even dismantle his shrine. To this day the relics of St. Sebaldus survive in a silver casket in a place of honor in the sanctuary.

 

About the church of St. Sebaldus — it is one of the most beautiful in Nuremberg, and that is saying a lot considering this old city is blessed with lovely Gothic churches and chapels. It was begun in 1225, was damaged heavily during World War II, and has been restored gloriously since then. During the war, the people of Nuremberg had the foresight to concede that their city would be a target for Allied bombers, so they removed all the city’s great art treasures from the museums and churches, including the shrine and relics of St. Sebaldus, and concealed them in a safe location. If you visit Nuremberg today, you will see all the original sculptures, paintings, altars and stained glass back in place. The church looks as it did about the year 1505, when the shrine of St. Sebaldus was completed.

 

According to legend, one bitter winter night Sebaldus was lost in the Reichswald forest. By good luck he stumbled into a clearing where stood a peasant’s cottage. The poor couple who lived there welcomed him and gave him a seat beside the fire. Sebaldus was chilled to the bone and the fire on the hearth was too small to give off much heat. He asked the man of the house where he kept the firewood so they could get a good blaze going. The peasant said he and his wife had to ration their fuel because they did not have much left. 

 

“Go outside,” Sebaldus told the lady of the house, “and break the icicles off the eaves of the cottage — as many as you can carry.” A few minutes later the woman returned with a large stack of thick icicles. Sebaldus took them from her and arranged them in the fireplace where they caught fire and burned as well as hardwood logs. That is why believers pray to St. Sebaldus to help them get through cold weather.

 

Craughwell is the author of the newly released 101 Places to Pray Before Your Die: A Roamin’ Catholic’s Guide.

 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017