Christian Saints - Christian holy men and women
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Christian Saints

Giotto St. Francis
St. Francis of Assisi, painted by Giotto

From early on, Christians believed that some holy people, when they died, not only went to heaven but had the special attention of Jesus, and had special powers themselves, so that they could cure sicknesses and answer prayers of all kinds. These people were called saints. Both men and women, and often children, became saints.
It was hard to tell, of course, whether someone was going to become a saint after he died, and sometimes people disagreed about it. But generally you looked for this kind of signs: a saint would lead a very holy kind of life, and often would not marry or have children. He or she would never do anything bad. A saint would do miracles even while he or she was alive, like curing sick people or saving a city from being destroyed. And often, a saint would die some kind of special death, either being killed by bad people or being taken up to Heaven alive or something like that. After the saint died, too, the saint's bones and clothes would continue to perform miracles.

Some important Christian saints (for example) were Saint Peter, Saint Paul, Saint Michael, Saint John the Baptist, and Saint Anne (Jesus' grandmother). Joan of Arc, who was burned for a witch, was made into a saint after her death.

This idea that some people had special connections to the gods goes back a long time before Christianity, to West Asian ideas about holy men and women. There are also similar ideas in Chinese and Indian Buddhism, for instance - check out the story of the boddhisatva Cheng-Huang.

Bibliography and further reading about Christian saints:

Main Christianity page
Main religion page


Celebrating Black History Month with the pharaoh Hatshepsut, the queen Shanakdakhete, the poet Phillis Wheatley, the medical consultant Onesimus, the freedom fighters Toussaint L'Ouverture, Denmark Vesey, Yaa Asantewaa, and Samora Moises Machel, and the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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