Saint Guinefort

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Saint Guinefort
Saint Guinefort
Modern illustration of St. Guinefort
Dog Saint
Died13th-century
near Lyon, France
Venerated inFolk Catholicism
FeastVenerated locally on August 22
PatronageInfants
Catholic cult suppressed
Never recognized officially by Catholic Church; cult persisted until the 1930s by Catholic Church

Saint Guinefort (French pronunciation: ​[ɡin.fɔʁ]) was a 13th-century French dog that received local veneration as a folk saint after miracles were reported at his grave.[1][2]

Legend[edit]

His story is a variation on the well-travelled "faithful hound" motif, similar to the Welsh story of the dog Gelert. Guinefort the greyhound belonged to a knight who lived in a castle near Lyon. 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 cot was overturned, the child was 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 cot and found his son lying there, safe and sound, along with the body of a viper. 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. Guinefort became recognised by locals as a saint for the protection of infants. It was alleged by contemporary commentators that locals left their babies at the site to be healed by the dog:

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.[1][2]

The cult of this dog saint persisted for several centuries, until the 1930s, despite the repeated prohibitions of the Catholic Church.[2]

In popular culture[edit]

The 1987 French film Le Moine et la sorcière (in the US known as The Sorceress) depicts the controversy over St. Guinefort as seen through the eyes of Fr. Etienne de Bourbon, a Dominican inquisitor and the author of the above passage.

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

"Gwenforte" is a prominent canine character in The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz, based on the legends of St. Guinefort.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Halsall, Paul (September 8, 2000). "Stephen de Bourbon (d. 1262): De Supersticione: On St. Guinefort Etienne de Bourbon". Medieval Sourcebook. Fordham University. Retrieved October 5, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Dickey, Colin (June 18, 2013). "A Faithful Hound". Lapham's Quarterly. Retrieved September 4, 2016.

External links[edit]