Halloween Day 11: Saints with White Hot Hammers - Atlas Obscura
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Halloween Day 11: Saints with White Hot Hammers

31 Days of Halloween: On Atlas Obscura this month, every day is Halloween. Stop by the blog every day this month for true tales of the unquiet dead. Come for the severed heads, stay for the book bound in human skin. Every story is true, and each one is a real place you can visit. We dare you.

Sainte Foy

In life, St. Foy was one of many young Christians who was martyred for her faith by the Roman Empire, but it was several hundred years after her execution that her life got really interesting.

Sometime in the tenth century, her bones were stolen by some monks at a monastery in Conques, France, who decided they needed the relics of a powerful saint to increase their visibility and draw pilgrims. In their hands, Foy quickly became a violent defender of the Conques monastery, and became known for her vicious pranks and vengeful miracles.

One rival monk who declared Conques “a pile of shit” was struck by Foy with an immediate and fatal case of dysentery, and another who challenged the monks over a tax matter was struck down by Foy with lightning and burned to a crisp. When a corrupt bishop stole Foy’s remains again, intending to ransom his kidnapped nephew with them, Foy appeared to him in a vision and calmly told him that she had just finished killing his kidnapped nephew, so he might as well return her relics to Conques.

Even when she was helping people, she often couldn’t resist tormenting them, so much so that in town her miracles were known as “St. Foy’s jokes.” When a local knight prayed to St. Foy to cure his herniated scrotum, she came to him in a vision and told him the best remedy would be to place his scrotum on an anvil and hit it with a white-hot hammer. The knight, putting his faith in St. Foy, finally found a blacksmith willing to do this, provided he not be held liable for killing the knight—so he heated up a hammer while the knight laid his wounded scrotum across the anvil. According to the story, when the blacksmith began to bring down the hammer, the knight panicked and fainted, falling backwards and hitting the ground so hard that, as a contemporary chronicler related, “in this headlong fall, wondrous to report! All at once his herniated intestines were sucked back inside so completely that they never ruptured again for the rest of his life.”

St. Foy’s remains are still housed in the imposing gilded statue of her on display in Conques, but be warned: not only should you not cross her, you should think twice before invoking her help—you never know how she might choose to aid you.

SPIN THE WHEEL

GOLDEN RELIQUARY OF ST. FOY, Conques, France