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Harry R. Schwartz

Software engineer, nominal scientist, gentleman of the internet. Member, ←Hotline Webring→.


Cephalophores

Published 13 Mar 2011. Tags: books, history, language, memes, old-dead-white-guys, words.

While reading about the recording of the lives of the saints, I can across this amazing paragraph:

Sometimes too the author embellished the story. St. Denis is the patron saint of France. He is supposed to have been the first bishop of Paris and to have suffered martyrdom through being beheaded. According to legend, he immediately stood up and walked a good distance, carrying his head in his hands, to the place where the church which bears his name is now situated, a little to the north of Paris. This was miraculous enough, you would have thought, but there are ways to improve on it. In later lives there are saints who do exactly the same thing, but walk even further or are accompanied by other beheaded martyrs also carrying their own heads. In fact this motif became so common that the experts have invented a special name for this kind of saint: cephalophores. This is from Greek, and of course means “headbearers.”

—Janson’s Natural History of Latin