In the 13th century the body of St. Dympna was discovered in the Flemish town of Gheel near Antwerp, and a number of epileptics and lunatics were allegedly restored to health. Thus, the saint became the patroness of the insane. At the close of the 13th century Gheel built an infirmary for the insane, and today the town is noted for its superior mental institution and the close personal care that the local population extends to its patients. All certain knowledge of the saint's life is lost, but popular legend depicts Dympna as an Irish, British, or Armorican princess. When her Christian mother died, says the legend, Dympna's pagan father attempted to seduce her. To escape his advances she went to Antwerp and settled as a solitary at Gheel. Her father followed her, and when she refused to return with him, he killed her.
Feast: May 15.
Bibliography: Acta Sanctorum May 3:475–495. a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, ed. h. thurston and d. attwater, (New York 1956) 2:320–321. h. delehaye, The Legends of the Saints, tr. d. attwater (New York 1962) 8, 77, 124.