Arrive in Calais, and all you have to do is drive about 700 miles south, as straight a route as you can, to find our house. En route you’ll pass scores of towns and villages dedicated to saints you’ve never heard of. Holy men and women such as:
I thought it was time to unearth a story or two. So I dug out our dictionary of saints, which dates from my student days when I needed to know about such things, and then I put Google to work. Nothing. Almost nothing. Not even on the websites of the communes themselves. There was the odd reference to a bishop who’d led a blameless life, but positively no ripping yarns. Where’s the fun in that?
The story of St. Wilgefort was the kind of thing I had in mind. In England we know her as St. Uncumber (you knew that, didn’t you?). Her father, a Portuguese nobleman, wanted to marry her off to some pagan king. As she’d taken a vow of virginity, she was not inclined to fall in with the plan. Her prayers to become repulsive to her suitor were answered when she grew a beard. Enraged, her father had her crucified. For many years during the Middle Ages, she was venerated by people seeking solace from tribulation, and particularly by women who wanted to be liberated – unencumbered – from their abusive husbands.
If you have any stories of forgotten French saints, I’d love to hear them.