Meet St. Corona, the Patron Saint of Epidemics (Yes, really)

Corona being executed by the pagans

Earlier this week, the Aachen Cathedral in Germany made preparations to publicly display the relics of the Catholic church's patron saint of epidemics, who, incidentally, happens to be the Christian martyr known as Saint Corona.

The display of St. Corona's reliquary, which had been planned long before the COVID-19 pandemic, was slated to begin this summer. However, due to government restrictions prohibiting public gatherings of more than two people, the event has been put on hold. Nevertheless, experts are hard at work making the ancient martyr's reliquary, which has been "quarantined" in the cathedral's vaults for a quarter of a century, presentable for public display. According to Reuter's, the relics of St. Corona are housed in a gold, bronze and ivory shrine.

“We have brought the shrine out a bit earlier than planned and now we expect more interest due to the virus,” said Daniela Loevenich, spokesperson for the Aachen Cathedral.

So who was Saint Corona?

Since she was martyred sometime around 170 AD, religious scholars disagree on several details of her life, including the location of her death. Most experts believe that she, along with Saint Victor (who shares the same feast day of May 14), was executed by Romans in Syria during the reign of emperor Marcus Aurelius. However, other experts believe they were killed in Italy or Egypt.

According to legend, Victor and Corona were husband and wife. Victor was a Roman soldier from Sicily who was stationed in Damascus during the reign of Antoninus Pius. While in Damascus he converted to Christianity, and for this he was arrested by an army officer named Sebastian, and was punished by having his eyes gouged out and his fingers cut off by the pagans. He was forced to eat poisoned meat, but it did not have any effect on him; during the ordeal he quoted a passage from the Gospel of Mark: "When they drink deadly poison, it will not harm them at all."

After refusing to renounce his faith, he was executed by beheading.

While Victor was being tortured, Corona, who was also captured by the pagans, cried out that she had seen a vision of two golden crowns prepared-- one for him, and another for herself. Legend states that she was tied to two palm trees which had been bowed to the ground. When the pagans cut the ropes, Corona's body was torn in half.

While Saints Victor and Corona are celebrated by Catholics, they are also venerated by the Greek Orthodox Church. The Greek Orthodox believe that Corona (whom they call Saint Stephanis), was not Victor's bride, but a wife of a different Roman soldier. According to Orthodox tradition, Stephanie, who comforted Victor during his torture, was sixteen years old at the time of her death. Both churches believe that she met her demise in the same gruesome fashion.