Fourteen Holy Helpers  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Fourteen Holy Helpers are a group of saints venerated together in Roman Catholicism because their intercession is believed to be particularly effective, especially against various diseases. This group of Nothelfer ("helpers in need") originated in the 14th century at first in the Rhineland, largely as a result of the epidemic (probably of bubonic plague) that became known as the Black Death.


The Auxiliary Saints

The fourteen saints are:

Name (Alternate)Feast dayPatronage
Agathius (Acacius)cMay 8Against headache
Template:SortnDecember 4Against fever and sudden death
Template:Sort (Blase, Blasius)aFebruary 3Against illness of the throat and for protection of domestic animals
Catherine of AlexandriamNovember 25Against sudden death
Template:Sort (Christophorus)gJuly 25Against bubonic plague and dangers while traveling
CyriacusiAugust 8Against temptation on the death-bed
Denis (Dionysius)lOctober 9Against headache
Template:Sort (Elmo)dJune 2Against intestinal ailments
Template:Sort (Eustachius, Eustathius)kSeptember 20Against family discord
Template:Sort (Georgius)bApril 23For the health of domestic animals
Template:Sort (Aegidius)jSeptember 1Against plague, for a good confession, and for cripples, beggars and blacksmiths
Margaret of AntiochfJuly 20During childbirth, and escape from devils
Template:Sort (Panteleimon)hJuly 27For physicians, and against cancer & tuberculosis
Vitus (Guy)eJune 15Against epilepsy, lightning and for protection of domestic animals

For one or another of the saints in the original set, Anthony the Anchorite, Leonard of Noblac, Nicholas, Sebastian, Oswald the King, Pope Sixtus II, Apollonia, Dorothea of Caesarea, Wolfgang of Regensburg or Roch were sometimes substituted. In France an extra "helper" is added, the Virgin Mary.

The Basilica of the Vierzehnheiligen

The Fourteen Holy Helpers are honored in Bavaria as the "vierzehn Heiligen," and the Basilica of the Vierzehnheiligen is dedicated to these "Helper Saints." The Rococo pilgrimage church in the hamlet of Bad Staffelstein was designed by Balthasar Neumann and built between 1743 and 1772.

Devotion to these saints began in that region on September 24, 1445 when Hermann Leicht, the young shepherd of a nearby Franciscan monastery, saw a crying child in a field that belonged to the nearby Cistercian monastery of Langheim. As he bent down to pick up the child, it abruptly disappeared. A short time later, the child reappeared in the same spot. This time, two candles were burning next to it. In June 1446, Leicht saw the child a third time. This time, the child bore a red cross on its chest and was accompanied by thirteen other children. The child said: "We are the fourteen helpers and wish to erect a chapel here, where we can rest. If you will be our servant, we will be yours!" Shortly after, Leicht saw two burning candles descending to this spot. It is alleged that miraculous healings soon began, through the intervention of the fourteen saints.

The Cistercian brothers to whom the land belonged erected a chapel, which immediately attracted pilgrims. An altar was consecrated as early as 1448. Pilgrimages to the Vierzehnheiligen continue to the present day between May and October.

Depiction in culture

One of the most famous group depictions of the "Fourteen Saints" is a 1503 altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald for the monastery in Lichtenfels in Upper Franconia.

The "fourteen angels" of the lost children's prayer in Engelbert Humperdinck's fairy opera, 'Hansel and Gretel', are the Fourteen Holy Helpers. The English words are familiar:


See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Fourteen Holy Helpers" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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