Saint Guinefort

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Saint Guinefort
Saint Guinefort
Modern illustration of St. Guinefort
Dog Saint
near Lyon, France
Venerated inFolk Catholicism
FeastVenerated locally on August 22
Catholic cult suppressed
 by Stephen of Bourbon[1]

Saint Guinefort (French pronunciation: [ɡin.fɔʁ]) was a legendary 13th-century French greyhound that received local veneration as a folk saint.[2][3][1]


Guinefort's story is a variation on the well-travelled "faithful hound" motif, similar to the Welsh story of the dog Gelert, or the Indian story of the Brahmin and the Mongoose.

In one of the earliest versions of the story, described by Dominican friar Stephen of Bourbon in 1250, Guinefort the greyhound belonged to a knight who lived in a castle near Lyon.[4] One day, the knight went hunting, leaving his infant son in the care of Guinefort. When he returned, he found the nursery in chaos – the cradle overturned, the child nowhere to be seen and Guinefort greeted his master with bloody jaws. Believing Guinefort to have devoured his son, the knight slew the dog. He then heard a child crying; he turned over the cradle and found his son lying there, safe and sound, along with the body of a viper bloody from dog bites. Guinefort had killed the snake and saved the child. On realizing the mistake the family dropped the dog down a well, covered it with stones and planted trees around it, setting up a shrine for Guinefort. Upon learning of the dog's martyrdom, the locals venerated the dog as a saint and visited his shrine of trees when they were in need, especially mothers with sick children.[4]

The local peasants hearing of the dog's noble deed and innocent death, began to visit the place and honor the dog as a martyr in quest of help for their sicknesses and other needs.
Stephen of Bourbon (d. 1262): De Supersticione: On St. Guinefort.[3][1]

The custom was regarded as harmful and superstitious by the church, which made efforts to eradicate it and enacted a fine for the continued practice.[3][1][5] Despite repeated prohibitions by the Catholic Church, the cult of this dog saint persisted for several centuries.[1] Community memory of the practices was still present in the 1970s, with the last known visit by someone to Saint Guinefort Wood to effect a cure for a sick child occurring around the 1940s.[6]

Historian John Bossy used this canine folk saint to explore medieval attitudes to sanctity.[7]

In popular culture[edit]

The 1987 French film Le Moine et la sorcière (in the US known as The Sorceress) is a fictionalized story based on Stephen of Bourbon’s original text regarding Saint Guinefort and the local people.[2]

Thomas of Hookton, the main character in Bernard Cornwell's The Grail Quest trilogy (2000–2003), is a mock believer in Saint Guinefort, praying to the saint and wearing a paw on a piece of leather around his neck.

In Adam Gidwitz's 2017 young adult novel The Inquisitor's Tale, the main characters' pet greyhound Gwenforte bears a strong resemblance to Saint Guinefort, especially in the manner of his death and resurrection early in the novel.

See also[edit]




  1. ^ a b c d e Dickey, Colin (June 18, 2013). "A Faithful Hound". Lapham's Quarterly. Retrieved September 4, 2016. In the late 1960s, when the Vatican revolutionized itself to stay current and relevant, Jean-Claude Schmitt was still making inquiries about Guinefort in the regions around Lyon—asking around about a supposed healer in the nearby forest, one of the locals answered Schmitt, "My grandmother told me: it seems he was a dog!"
  2. ^ a b Rist, R. (2019). "The papacy, inquisition and Saint Guinefort the Holy Greyhound" (PDF). Reinardus: The Yearbook of the International Reynard Society. 30 (1). University of Reading: 190–211. doi:10.1075/rein.00020. ISSN 0925-4757.
  3. ^ a b c Halsall, Paul (September 8, 2000). "Stephen de Bourbon (d. 1262): De Supersticione: On St. Guinefort Etienne de Bourbon". Medieval Sourcebook. Fordham University. Retrieved December 26, 2023.
  4. ^ a b van Ruymbeke Stey, Marie-Madeleine (June 2007). "Saint Guinefort Addressing Thomas Aquinas's Shadow". Journal of Jungian Scholarly Studies. 3.
  5. ^ Su, Minjie. "Oh My Dog! St Guinefort and St Christopher". Retrieved November 18, 2021.
  6. ^ "The legend of Saint Guignefort" (in French). Association Saint Guignefort. Retrieved November 18, 2021. Some old people of Châtillon still remembered in the years 1970 that formerly (before the second world war) one went in this wood to invoke there certain Saint Guignefort and to obtain the cure of the sick or weak children.
  7. ^ Christianity in the West 1400-1700 (review) Wooding, Lucy (7 January 2010). "The Canon". Times Higher Education (1929): 49–49.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]