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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Nothing Up My Sleeve

Hi Sister. Do you know who is the patron saint shown holding a giant saw, I think the long kind used by two people on each end for sawing down trees? I saw it in a painting.

Yes, I do. Unfortunately, I can't tell you much about him.

I believe you are asking about St. Simon Zelotes, aka St. Simon the Zealot. He was one of the Twelve Apostles. For a minute there, there were two Apostles named Simon. Then Jesus changed one Simon's name to Peter. I'm sure it was because "Peter" means "rock" and "upon this rock, etc.", but it must have cleared up a lot of confusion and possible embarrassment.

"Who ate the rest of the loaves and the fishes?"


"No, I didn't."

"Thomas says he saw Simon do it. He only believes what he sees."

"It wasn't me."

"I didn't mean it was you. It was Simon."

"I'm Simon."

"Then Who is on first?"


"What is on second."

You can see the problems that would cause. In any case, other than some name confusion, we don't know much about St. Simon the Zealot. His legend as a preacher has him in all parts of the known world of the time, including England, or what would become England. His death was by crucifixion, or peacefully in his sleep, or he was cut in half by a giant saw in Persia. Hence his depiction in art with the giant saw.

Whenever you see a depiction of a saint in art, whatever the saint is holding tells you something about the saint. St. Apollonia, the patron saint of toothaches, is holding a giant pair of pliers because that was how she was tortured. St. Peter has a cross that is "X" shaped, the instrument of his death and the other St. Simon, whose name was never changed has the giant saw, even though there is no evidence of any kind that he actually died that way.

It does make for a great looking painting, though. And a handsome statue.

The bigger mystery is this: why is St. Simon Zelotes the patron saint of tanners?

He should be the patron saint of vaudeville style magicians. The kind that saw a lady in half.


ArchAngel's Advocate said...

Sorry Sister, but St. Andrew was executed on a X shaped cross. St. Peter was executed upside down on a cross. A partial list of saint symbols can be found here

Sister Mary Martha said...

Of course you are correct! What was I thinking? It's not as though all the Apostle's blend together. Well...some of them do...

Anonymous said...

Sister, I love your blog!
Can you tell me why St. James the Greater is the patron of veterinarians? My niece is in vet school and wanted to know why.

Katherine said...

How is Sister Mary Fiacre? It has been awhile since you told us about her.

aka the Mom said...

Sister, I hate to correct you, but St Bartholomew is the patron of tanners because he was skinned before being crucified.