St Erasmus

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Popularly known as St Elmo, this early saint was Bishop of Formiae in Italy. When the Christians were being persecuted under Emperor Diocletian according to legend he took refuge on Mt Lebanon, living on food brought to him by birds.

He was captured and suffered horrendous tortures before he managed to escape and began boldly preaching again. He was recaptured in Illyricum, tortured again, and finally killed in 303. His symbol is a windlass used to lift a ship's anchor.

St Elmo is the patron saint of sailors. St Elmo's Fire - a electrical phenomenon that sometimes appears on ship's mastheads after a storm, is named after him.

For centuries the parish church of Faversham in Kent had an altar dedicated to St Erasmus with lights provided by legacies. Several alabastar carvings, and paintings of him by Grunwald, Cranach and Dirk Bouts survive to this day, as does a sculpture of the saint in the chapel of Henry VII in Westminster Abbey.

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