DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - A little known — until now — 16-year-old saint of the second century is currently being hailed as a source of hope and protection against the communist-created Wuhan virus.
A spate of tweets about St. Corona has taken the international social media world by storm. For many Catholic and non-Catholic twitterati, the saint and martyr is being touted as a patron who has been waiting for 1,860 years to help the world through this current crisis.
For traditional Catholics, St. Corona has been honored in various places for centuries for her adherence to the Faith in the face of suffering and martyrdom. According to ancient hagiographic accounts and the Roman Martyrology, she is the saint to pray to in times of plagues and pandemics.
Most accounts agree she died in 170 A.D. in Syria during the reign of Marcus Aurelius and that she was put to death by order of a Roman judge named Sebastian who hated Christians.
Sebastian ordered St. Corona, who had proclaimed her allegiance to Christ, to be tied to the tops of two palm trees, which had been bent to the ground. At his signal, the ropes holding the trees were cut, forcing them to spring back to an upright position — ripping apart St. Corona's body.
Before her excruciating death, she provided solace and courage to another of Sebastian's tortured victims, St. Victor, a Roman soldier, who had been whipped, had his eyes gouged out and was then beheaded for his Christian faith. The two saints are often pictured together.
The linking of St. Corona's name with the coronavirus — the word corona is Latin for crown — is not the only coincidence. A basilica preserving her relics since the ninth century happens to be located in the middle of the pandemic in the city of Anzu, in northern Italy.
The basilica is named after both of the saints — Basilica Santuario dei Santi Vittore e Corona. St. Corona and her relics are receiving renewed interest among the faithful there and on the internet. "She's being called on in Northern Italy where her remains are," said Fr. Rich Pagano, a host on The Catholic Talk Show.
In Germany, where more than 44,000 cases of coronavirus infections have been reported as of March 26, St. Corona is also making an appearance.
Germany's historic Aachen Cathedral, built by Emperor Charlemagne in the ninth century, has pulled the relics of the saint from its treasure chamber and is polishing up the reliquary to go on display once the coronavirus pandemic has ended. St. Corona's relic, were brought to Aachen by King Otto III in 997 and kept in a tomb until 1911–12 when they were placed in the shrine.
According to a Reuters report, the cathedral had planned "even before the coronavirus outbreak to display St Corona's shrine this summer as part of an exhibition on gold craftsmanship."
Germany's Aachen Cathedral has dug out the relics of little-known Saint Corona, patron saint of resisting epidemics, and is polishing up her shrine to go on show once the coronavirus crisis has passed https://t.co/tcfuuUAa4w pic.twitter.com/HMQGCRDIrE— Reuters (@Reuters) March 26, 2020
But it may be even more than the gold craftsmanship that may bring visitors to Aachen Cathedral when the pandemic is over, as interest in the saint's healing powers may prove more interesting to survivors.
Still, the German experts are continuing to clean the gold, bronze and ivory shrine, which has been hidden from public view for the last 25 years, in preparation for when it can go on display.
"We have brought the shrine out a bit earlier than planned and now we expect more interest due to the virus," said Aachen Cathedral spokeswoman Daniela Loevenich.
Director of the cathedral treasury Birgitta Falk said, "Like many other saints, St. Corona may be a source of hope in these difficult times."
Indeed, many tweets include this prayer: "St. Corona, patroness of plague and pandemics, pray for us!"
St. Corona's feast day is May 14.