23 Jan, 2002

One night, I surfed my way to  a page which listed various things in the universe and the saint which patronised them. I found my way there first by following a link to Manichaeism which led me to St. Augustine, which led me to look for the patron saint of madmen. Madness led me to Christina here. It does not surprise me that she is Belgian.

Christina Mirabilis

A.D. 1150 - 1224 

Patron Saint of Madmen, mental illness,

mental health workers.

image by guido 2002

From: Butler's Lives of the Saints

(Christina of Liege, Christina Mirabilis)

1150 - 1224
July 24 Christina the Astonishing, Virgin (A.D. 1224)

Christina was born at Brusthem in the diocese of Liege, in 1150, and at  the age of fifteen was left an orphan, with two elder sisters. When she was about twenty-two Christina had a seizure, was assumed to be dead,and in due course was carried in an open coffin to the church, where a Mass  of requiem was begun. Suddenly, after the _Agnus Dei_, Christina sat up, soared to the beams of the roof, and there perched herself. Everyone fled from the church except her elder sister, who, though thoroughly frightened, gave a good example of recollection to the others by stopping till the end of Mass. The priest then made Christina come down (it was said that she had taken refuge up there because she could not bear the 
smell of sinful human bodies). She averred that she had actually been dead; that she had gone down to Hell and there recognized many friends, and to Purgatory, where she had seem more friends, and then to Heaven.

This was only the beginning of a series of hardly less incredible occurrences. Christina fled into remote places, climbed trees and towers and rocks, and crawled into ovens, to escape from the smell of humans. 
She would handle fire with impunity and, in the coldest weather, dash into the river, or into a mill-race and be carried unharmed under the wheel. She prayed balancing herself on the top of a hurdle or curled up on the ground in such a way that she looked like a ball. Not unnaturally, everyone thought she was mad or 'full of devils,' and attempts were made to confine her, but she always broke loose. 

Eventually she was caught by a man who had to give her a violent blow on the leg to do it, and it was thought her leg was broken. She was therefore taken to the house of a surgeon in Liege, who put splints on the limb and chained her to a pillar for safety. She escaped in the nights. On one occasion when a priest, not knowing her and frightened by her appearance, had refused to give her communion, she rushed wildly through the streets, jumped into the Meuse, and swam away. She lived by begging, dressed in rags, and behaved in a terrifying manner.

The last years of her life Christina passed in the convent of St. Catherine at Saint-Trond, and there she died at the age ofseventy-four. Even while she lived there some who regarded her with great respect. 
Louis, Count of Looz, treated her as a friend, welcoming her to his castle, accepting her rebukes, and on his deathbed insisting on manifesting his conscience to her. Blessed Mary of Oignies had regard 
for her, the prioress of St Catherine's praised her obedience, and St Lutgardis sought her advice.

How Saint Christina sang 
‘Then she stopped spinning and sang.

No-one could imitate the sounds that came from deep in her chest 
nor make sense of the syllables; no breath came from out of her nose or mouth, 
but it was like angels singing’ 

Thomas de Chantimpre 

 the only contemporary image of chrissy

Christina's experiences were recorded by a contemporary Dominican, Cardinal James de Vitry, in the preface to the Life of Marie d'Oignies, and by the Dominican Bishop Thomas de Cantimpre'. Her body is preserved in the Redemptorist church at *Saint-Trond. Her resurrection was witnessed by the whole town and many saw her escape her various tortures unscathed. Her cultus has never been officially confirmed (Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Schouppe, Walsh, White).

In art, Blessed Christina is a maiden with dishevelled hair sitting on a wheel with serpents around her. At times she may be shown (1) with a serpent around her wrist (Husenbeth erroneously gives this as Christina of Bolsena or Tuscany (today); (2) with a serpent and palm; or (3) with a wheel and palm (easily confused with Saint Catherine of Alexandria, but she is not crowned and her wheel has no spikes) (Roeder). Christina is venerated at Ličge and Trond (Roeder). Some of these emblems seem more appropriate for Christina of Tyre; there may be some confusion.

Christina's Breast Experiences


The ascetic mystic Christina Mirabilis, who lived a rather fantastic life, had two miraculous experiences with her breasts. Her biographer, Thomas de Cantimpre, wrote the story of her life eight years after she died in 1224. Sometimes criticized as unhistorical, I find this account to be important despite its questionable truthfulness, but for what was believed could be true by the people of the era. After all, any religious experience can be doubted; its importance lies in the faith of the believers. 

Christina's life was never dull. After such extraordinary occasions wherein she died, was "brought back to the body" by God during her funeral (De Cantimpre 12), and then flew to the rafters of the church and refused to come down, the people of her town believed her to be "possessed by demons" (Ibid. 14). They captured and tortured her, yet she escaped with the help of God, and fled to the forest. Racked by hunger, she pleaded with God for his mercy. Christina's life story then relates:

Without delay, when she turned her eyes to herself, she saw that the dry paps of her virginal breasts were dripping sweet milk against the very law of nature. Wondrous thing! Unheard of in all the centuries since the incomparable Mother of God! (De Cantimpre 14)

Because of her piety and faith, God gave Christina sustenance. Yet he does not give her the ordinary and often polluted food of mortals, which sometimes tasted to her as though she was "swallowing the bowels of frogs and toads or the intestines of snakes" (Ibid. 22). He does not shower her with a holy food such as manna. Instead, God gives her something even more holy: her own breast milk. From this, Christina's holiness becomes similar to none other than "the incomparable Mother of God!"-who, also a virgin, breast-fed the baby Jesus (De Cantimpre 14). 

Her story goes on to say, 
Using the dripping liquid as food, she was nourished for nine weeks with the milk from her fruitful but virginal breasts. In the meantime, she was being sought by her own people and was found, captured, and bound as before with iron chains-but in vain. (De Cantimpre 15) 

Persecuted as many religious men and women of the time were, she eluded capture with the help of the holy sustenance from her own body. That Christina could subsist for over two months on nothing but her own breast milk is a miracle in and of itself, and foreshadows the eventual failure of those who attempted to imprison her. 

Christina's next breast experience happens after many more miracles. She forces herself through torments by fire, icy water, the rack, and thorns. Repeatedly, her family and friends attempt to "capture her and bind her with iron chains" as they still believe that she is possessed by demons and not God (De Cantimpre 18). When her family finally seizes her, Christina is bound with a heavy yoke, fed like a dog with only water and bread, and is plagued by "festering wounds" from her tight bondage. Her biographer writes, "No one there had compassion on her wretchedness, but the Lord marvellously had pity on her and wrought in her a great miracle, unheard of in all previous centuries" (Ibid. 20). This time, Christina lactates multi-purpose oil instead of milk: "Her virginal breasts begin to flow with clear liquid of the clearest oil and she took that liquid and used it as a flavouring for her bread and ate it as food and smeared it on the wounds of her festering limbs as an ointment" (De Cantimpre 20). Chris While Christina was breast-feeding herself, other mystics experienced lactation for the benefit of the baby Jesus. These mystics had ecstatic visions in which the Christ-child appeared to them, and the mystics were able to act as His mother, playing, bathing, and most importantly, breast-feeding Him. As they offered their breasts to the baby Jesus, they gave their soul to God. Not only do these experiences bring them physically and spiritually close to Jesus, but they are also able to imitate the actions of the Virgin Mary. 



(snt-troi´dn) (KEY) , Fr. Saint-Trond, town (1991 pop. 36,994), Limburg prov., E Belgium. It is primarily an industrial center but is noted for its cherries. Sint-Truiden developed around an abbey founded in the 7th cent. by St. Trudo. Noteworthy are a 13th-century Beguinage church and the 15th-century Church of Notre Dame.