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Saint Dymphna


Extracted from The Catholic Encyclopaedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica and Wikipedia.

It is believed that Saint Dymphna was born in North East Ireland during the 7th Century. Her life was first recorded in the thirteen century and was based on a longstanding oral history.

While Dymphna’s mother was a devout Christian her father, Damon, who was a king, in the area of Oriel (what is now Louth, Armagh and Monaghan) was a pagan. Dymphna became a Christian. Apparently her mother was extraordinarily beautiful and died when Dymphna was only 14 years old. Her father loved her mother so much that after she died his mental health deteriorated rapidly. He eventually decided to remarry and wished to marry a woman that resembled his wife, but could not find such a woman. Because his daughter resembled her mother so much Damon developed a desire to marry her. On finding out about this, Dymphna fled Ireland along with her confessor Father Gerbernus and two servants. They travelled to what is now North East Belgium and took refuge in the town of Gheel beside the chapel of Saint Martin. Her hiding place was eventually discovered by Damon who travelled to the town to entice her to return to Oriel. She refused to return, so he had Father Gerbernus killed and he cut Dymphna’s head off. She was 15 years old at the time. Their bodies were entombed in a cave and when found later the remains of St Dymphna was buried in the church in Gheel while the remains of St. Gerebernus were transferred to Xanten in North West Germany.

The exact history of Dymphna is uncertain as there are other folk stories concerning rulers who wished to marry their daughters in the folktales of other European Countries.

However numerous accounts of cures associated with her in the early 17th Century have been recorded.

Her feast is celebrated on the 15th of May. The saint has been invoked as patroness against insanity, mental disorders, neurological disorders, runaways and victims of incest for generations.

The Church dedicated to St Dymphna at Gheel was consecrated in 1532 and replaced an older one which was destroyed by fire in 1489.