1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Vitus, St

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VITUS, ST (German, Veit; French, Guy). According to the legend, where he is associated with Modestus and Crescentia, by whom he had been brought up, St Vitus suffered martyrdom at a very early age under the emperor Diocletian. Son of a Sicilian nobleman who was a worshipper of idols, Vitus was converted to the Christian faith without the knowledge of his father, was denounced by him and scourged, but resisted all attacks on his profession. Admonished by an angel, he crossed the sea to Lucania and went to Rome, where he suffered martyrdom. His festival is celebrated on the 15th of June. The Passion of St Vitus has no historical value, but his name occurs in the Martyrologium hieronymianum. In 836 the abbey of Corvey, in Saxony, received his relics, and became a very active centre of his cult. In the second half of the 9th century the monks of Corvey, according to Helmold's Chronica Slavorum, evangelized the island of Rügen, where they built a church in honour of St Vitus. The islanders soon relapsed, but they kept up the superstitious cult of the saint (whom they honoured as a god), returning to Christianity three centuries later. At Prague, too, there are some relics of the saint, who is the patron of Bohemia and also of Saxony, and one of the fourteen "protectors" (Nothhelfer) of the church in Germany. Among the diseases against which St Vitus is invoked is chorea, also known as St Vitus's Dance.

See Acta sanctorum, June, iii. 1013-42 and vi. 137-40; Bibliotheca hagiographica Latina (Brussels, 1899), n. 8711-23; J. H. Kessel, "St Veit, seine Geschichte, Verehrung and bildliche Darstellungen," in Jahrbücher des Vereins von Alterthumsfreunden im Rheinlande (1867), pp. 152-83. (H. DE.)