Monday, November 27, 2006

Christina the Astonishing

Christina, considered by some to be a saint, is as much remembered for her faith as she is for her bizzare and sometimes violent behaviour.
She was born in Belgium in 1150, and was orphaned soon after. Around the age of 21 she suffered a massive seizure , which resulted in a condition so severe that everyone assumed she was dead. During the funeral service, she awoke and it is said she levetated over the crowd. A priest in attendance ordered her to decend, and she did so upon the altar of the church and proclaimed to all that she had witnessed Heaven, Hell and Purgatory.

After that incident, Christina exhibited more strange behaviour. She had many more severe seizures. It is thought today that she suffered from an extreme form of epilepsy. She claimed that she could 'smell sin' on people and in order to escape the smell she would climb trees and rooftops and one time even hid inside an oven. Other times she would levetate to extreme heights.

Christina chose to live in poverty, and exhibited it in ways that were considered extreme even by 13th century standards. She slept on rocks, wore rags, and begged for her food. She often fell into "ecstasies" where she would lead the souls of the recently dead to purgatory, and those from purgatory to Heaven. During which, Christina would roll in fire or handle it without harm, stand in freezing water in the winter for hours, spend long periods in tombs, or allow herself to be dragged under water by a mill wheel, and it is claimed she never sustained injury.

The people of the day were divided in their opinions: Some said she was a holy woman, touched of God, and that her actions and torments were simulations of the experiences of the souls in purgatory, and that she was suffering the torments of devils - Others believed she was completely insane. However, the prioress of Saint Catherine's convent testified that no matter how bizarre or excessive Christina's reported actions, she was always completely obedient to the prioresses orders. She was a good Friend of Louis, Count of Looz, whose castle she visited, and whose actions she rebuked. Blessed Marie of Oignies thought well of her, and Saint Lutgardis sought her advice.

She passed away at the age of 74 due to natural causes.

No formal beatification has taken place. Christina is sometimes referred to as Blessed or as a Saint and her patronage is considered to include insanity; lunatics; madness; mental disorders; mental handicaps; mental health caregivers; mental health professionals; mental illness; mentally ill people; psychiatrists; and therapists.


Cynthia said...


I re-discovered your blog while I was looking for ways to shamelessly publicize my new painting of St. Christina the Astonishing! It's been a labor of love for the past three years. The title is "Saint Christina the Astonishing -- A Pelican in the Wilderness (Psalm 102) Please come and visit:


Cynthia said...

Ok, apparently that address was too long! I've linked the painting to my name; just click on it, above.

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Cliff said...

Love that last comment. Here's a little more lighthearted take on Christina (scroll down - she's #1):