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St. Dymphna, Martyr, in Belgium

Commemorated on May 15

St. Dymphna was the daughter of a pagan king of Ireland, but became a Christian and was secretly baptized. After the death of her mother, who was known for her beauty, her father offered his own hand in marriage to his daughter. However, Dymphna ran away with the assistance of a priest, Gerebernus. Landing in Antwerp, Belgium, they traveled to the village of Gheel, where they lived near a local chapel.

In 650, St. Dymphna’s father found her and renewed his offer of marriage. Realizing that she would never accept him in this way, he demanded that Fr. Gerebernus be killed. Dymphna received a martyr’s crown when her father cut off her head with a sword.

The bodies were placed in coffins and entombed in a cave where they were later found by local Christians. Eventually, the relics of St. Dymphna were buried in the church at Gheel, while St. Gerebernus was buried in Kanten.

In Christian art, St. Dymphna is depicted with a sword in her hand and a devil at her feet. She has been invoked as the patroness against insanity. The church where Dymphna was buried in Gheel (25 miles from Antwerp) was destroyed by a fire in 1489. A new church was consecrated on the same site in 1532 and still stands to this day.

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