162. St. Vitus.


Dr. Reid[1] says it is remarkable that St. Vitus is no where to be found in the Romish kalendar; and he supposes that from “some misunderstanding or inaccuracy of manuscript chorea invita, the original and genuine name of the disease called St. Vitus’s Dance, was read and copied chorea St. Viti326This is very probable; St. Vitus himself, who though not in the calendar, is well known in hagiology, has undergone a change equally remarkable, having not only been canonized among christians, but also deified among pagans. He is said to have been a native of Lycia, and to have suffered martyrdom under Diocletian; Fulrad, Abbot of St. Dennis, and chaplain to king Pepin and Charleman, got scent of his relics, and translated them to St. Dennis. As long as they remained there they were the palladium of France, and that country prospered in all its undertakings. But after Lewis the Pious in the 9th century founded the monastery of Corbeya, in Saxony, for his uncle St. Adelard, the Abbot Werner, who succeeded him, obtained permission from that Emperor to remove the body to this new foundation, and from that hour the fortunes of Saxony began to wax, and those of the race of Charleman to wane. The monks of Corbeya 327preached among the Russians and other Slavonic nations, among whom St. Vitus worked so many miracles, that after all other vestiges of Christianity had been lost among them, they continued their devotion to him, and metamorphosed him into a God who was worshipped by all the Northern Pagans, under the name of Swantowith[2].

Saxo Grammaticus (l. 14) describes this Idol as his image existed in the city of Arkon,.. a four headed figure, of which a print derived from this description may be seen in Sammes, p. 455. His white horse was famous, “peculiarem albi coloris equum titulo possidebat, cujus jubæ aut caudæ pilos convellere nefarium ducebatur. Hunc soli sacerdoti pascendi insidendique jus erat, ne divini animalis usus, quo frequentior, hoc vilior, haberetur. In hoc equo, opinione Rugiæ, Suantovitus adversum sacrorum suorum hostes bella gerere credebatur. Cujus rei 328præcipuum argumentum extabat, quod is nocturno tempore stabulo insistens, adeo plerumque manè sudore ac luto respersus videbatur, tanquam ab exercitatione veniendo magnorum itinerum spatium percurrisset.

Sammes traces the white horse of the Saxon arms to this superstition. Those which we see cut on the side of chalk hills in the South-west of England (Wessex) are not improbably derived from the same cause, and the pedigree of the white horse of Hanover perhaps extends to the same origin,

  1. Monthly Magazine, Dec, 1810,
  2. Yepes, T.4, ff. 21, ,5, ff, 41,


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