A German cathedral has dug out its collection of relics related to the little-known Saint Corona, said to be the patron saint of resisting epidemics, amid the growing coronavirus crisis.
Aachen Cathedral, near Germany’s borders with Belgium and the Netherlands, is polishing relics found in its treasure chamber to go on show once the pandemic has passed.
Coronavirus has infected more than half a million people worldwide, with 43,646 cases confirmed in Germany amid 239 deaths.
But the pandemic is said to have boosted public interest in the Christian martyr, who is believed to have been killed by the Romans during the reign of Marcus Aurelius some 1,800 years ago.
Aachen Cathedral, near Germany’s borders with Belgium and the Netherlands, is polishing relics of Saint Corona (pictured) to go on show once the pandemic has passed
The cathedral had planned to display Saint Corona’s shrine this summer as part of an exhibition on gold craftsmanship before the outbreak began in China in December.
It is unclear when the public will now be able to view the relics due to tough restrictions on gatherings which have been imposed to help combat the spread of the virus.
But experts are now painstakingly cleaning the gold, bronze and ivory shrine, which has been hidden from public view for 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.
Saint Corona is believed to have been 16 years old when she was killed by the Romans, most likely in Syria, for professing the Christian faith.
The teenager suffered an excruciating death, according to legend. She was tied to two bent palm trees and then torn apart as the trunks were released.
The cathedral had planned to display St Corona’s shrine (pictured) this summer as part of an exhibition on gold craftsmanship before the outbreak began in China in December
Restorer Luke Jonathan Koeppe and the director of the cathedral treasury Birgitta Falk present a shrine with the relics of Saint Corona
‘This is a very gruesome story and led to her becoming the patron of lumberjacks,’ Brigitte Falk, head of Aachen Cathedral Treasure Chamber said.
She added it was pure chance that she also apparently became a patron saint for resisting epidemics.
However, some experts claim the teenager is in fact the patron saint of treasure hunters.
‘You have people praying to the patron saint of treasure hunters, which seems to be against CDC guidelines,’ Candida Moss, the Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology at the University of Birmingham said.
She added that Saint Corona’s story is ‘complicated’ and there is even reason to believe she was invented.
It is unclear when the public will now be able to view the relics due to tough restrictions on gatherings which have been imposed to help combat the spread of the virus
The shrine with the relics of Saint Corona, believed to be the patron of epidemics, is seen at the cathedral in Aachen, Germany
Pictured: Aachen Cathedral, where the relics of Saint Corona will go on show once the pandemic has passed
Saint Corona’s relics, brought to Aachen by King Otto III in 997, were kept in a tomb underneath a stone in the cathedral until 1911-12 when they were placed in the shrine, which is 93 centimetres tall and weighs 98 kilograms.
The Roman Catholic cathedral at Aachen, built by Emperor Charlemagne in the ninth century, is one of Europe’s oldest.
Charlemagne was buried there in 814 and it was later used for the coronation of German kings and queens.
The cathedral stressed that Saint Corona is the patron saint of resisting all epidemics, not just the virus rapidly spreading across the globe.
It just so happens coronavirus received its name because under a microscope it looks like a globe with small globules, resembling a crown, said Ms Falk.
In Latin, corona means crown or garland.
‘Like many other saints, Saint Corona may be a source of hope in these difficult times,’ added Ms Falk.