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Beatus, St.


Apostle of Switzerland; d. 112. An unauthenticated tenth-century legend says that he was of Gallic origin, had been ordained by St. peter himself, and went to Switzerland to convert the heathen Helvetiae in the area around Lake Thun. The legend further relates that he killed a dragon there, lived in its cave until he died at the age of 90, and was buried on the site. His cult did not become popular until the thirteenth century, when the neighboring village of Beatenburg became the center of pilgrimage to him that lasted until the early sixteenth century. About 1300 an altar was dedicated to him in the Zurich Frauenmünster and a confraternity of St. Beatus was set up. In later medieval art he is portrayed as a hermit with staff and rosary in hand and with a dragon by his side. He was patron of central Switzerland and his assistance was invoked against plague, glandular diseases, and cancer. If he had a historical existence, it was probably as an English or Irish missionary of the sixth century, or else he has been confused with the ninth-century Beatus of Vendôme.

Feast: May 9.

Bibliography: h. moretus, "La légende de s. Béat, apôtre de Suisse," Analecta Bollandiana 26 (1907) 423453. w. stammler, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 2:86. a. m. jacquin, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912) 7:8687. j. stammler, Der hl. Beatus, seine Höhle und sein Grab (Bern 1904). o. scheiwiller, "Beatus-Frage," Zeitschrift für schweizerische Kirchengeschichte 5 (1911) 2152. l. rÉau, Iconographie de l'art chrétien, 6 v. (Paris 195559) 3:190.

[j. l. grassi]

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