6 Saints With Superpowers Straight from the Marvel Universe
If your only knowledge of Christian saints is that certain holidays and cities are named after them, hang on to your asses. Some of these guys went down in history because they supposedly could fly, slay dragons and function without heads.
Here are the saints who were only an adamantium skeleton away from joining the X-Men.
The Severed Head That Kept Preaching -- St. Denis of Paris
Life as a missionary can be tough, especially if it's in third century Paris under Roman rule. Undeterred by government death threats, a missionary named Denis continued to convert Parisians to Christianity. This resulted in Denis being beheaded. And he was still undeterred.
"Jesus is head and shoulders above the rest! Hahaha! But seriously, this is excruciating."
The story goes that after his execution, Denis picked up his own severed head, washed it by a spring -- apparently because he was fussy about all the blood -- and walked for about two Gallic miles (which is approximately six of ours, adjusted after inflation). And he was preaching all the way, through the mouth on the severed head he was carrying, until he reached a spot that he thought would make a good burial site. There he eventually dropped dead.
But not before stopping for some bowling.
Fun fact: He's the patron saint of people suffering from headaches (Catholicism has apparently never been renowned for its subtlety). But even better, apart from several paintings of St. Denis with head in hands, the motif was awesomely extended to the world of sculpture, where St. Denis is permanently remembered not for his good deeds, but for being the guy who could do this:
He was a head of his time.
Though we think the real unsung hero of this story was his audience. If he was preaching the whole time he was walking around headless, then somebody was presumably listening. We have enormous respect for anyone who sees a headless guy walking toward them with blood spurting from a ragged neck stump, carrying a head that is offering them an inspirational message of salvation, and is able to actually listen to and absorb what the head is saying.
St. Margaret of Antioch: Dragon Slayer
As you see in the above story, the Romans often served as the supervillains in these old tales of the superhero saints. For instance, when St. Margaret of Antioch resisted the advances of a local Roman prefect, he had her arrested, tortured and then thrown into the dungeon. Things took a turn for the worse when Satan appeared before her in the form of a massive dragon. In a scene ripped straight from some sweet airbrush art on the side of an '80s van, the Satan-dragon swallowed Margaret whole.
The other side is the Last Supper using Lord of the Rings characters.
What happened next varies depending on what account you read, but our favorite version involves Margaret cutting her way out of the dragon's stomach like a chestbuster from Alien. And for some reason the dragon looked like Snarf from Thundercats.
Which was just proof of his evil.
The next day, the Romans tried to execute her by drowning her and then lighting her on fire, which would have seemed a bit like overkill if it had actually worked. It turns out that bathing in the blood of dragons makes you immune to most ordinary causes of death, because neither the drowning nor the flames harmed her.
After Margaret showed Wolverinesque levels of unkillability, the Romans eventually resorted to chopping her head off and then presumably sleeping with the light on every night from then on.
Saint Christopher Was Two Stories Tall
Before Christopher became a saint, he tried going a different direction and decided to be a follower of Satan. Figuring that this was probably not the best move in the long run, he chose to join the forces of good, and started a career as a follower of Christ. This was a pretty big win for the good guys, because Christopher was three times taller than you.
You'd think he'd try to find a safer way to carry that baby. Since he's, you know, Jesus.
The tale written in the saints compendium called The Golden Legend held that Christopher was 18 feet tall. As the writing of the time put it, he was 12 cubits (a cubit being 18 inches). But apparently instead of being the patron saint of choke-slams or of little person juggling, he became the patron saint of traveling. Consequently, images of the Christian Goliath being really big were scattered around Europe.
The most important event in his life of being tall and wasting it just walking around was putting a 3-year-old Jesus Christ on his shoulders and wading across a river, hence the name Christopher ("Christ bearer"). You'd think Christ would be the last guy who'd need someone to carry him across a river, but in a story with a guy as tall as a building and a 3-year-old Jesus traveling on his own, accuracy may be secondary.
And if this painting is anything to go by, the Christ Child was kind of a backseat wader.
On top of that, when it came time to port the story of St. Christopher into Eastern Orthodox doctrine, a translation error pretty much transmogrified the guy. You see, Christopher was a Canaanite (which at the time of Christ meant that he was essentially an Israeli), but this became "canine." Hilariously, artists and iconographers just went with it and turned the giant into a damned werewolf without a second thought.
And a giant werewolf, at that.
The Beast Master Saint Columbanus
Reading the stories of St. Columbanus' life, you could be forgiven for thinking that he was about one musical number away from being a real-life Disney princess. He would roam the forests with birds flying around his head and landing on his shoulders while squirrels would run up and down his robes and nest in his cowl. Assuming that this guy was some sort of hippie wuss would probably be the last mistake you'd ever make, however, because Columbanus' control over animals didn't stop with the adorable ones. To put it plainly, the guy was essentially a beast master.
This isn't Photoshop. This is actually his medal. Shaking hands with a bear.
As the Catholic church tells it, when walking through the forest one day, Columbanus was confronted with a dozen hungry wolves (who had probably been attracted by all the tasty birds and squirrels that followed him around). He walked right through them, unmolested. Apparently feeling that this just wasn't impressive enough, he soon upgraded to a more terrifying class of animal minion: bears.
Evidently, the only thing that Columbanus loved more than helping others and spreading the word of God was the total humiliation and subjugation of bears. You'd swear that they'd picked on him in high school or something. His first ursine bitchslap was when he decided to retire into a mountain cave for prayer and meditation. The only problem was that this particular cave was the home to one very large sleeping she-bear. Flying in the face of Darwinism, self-preservation and general common sense, Columbanus woke up the confused 1,000-pound tower of teeth and claws and ordered it to leave the cave and never return.
"Ugh -- and from now on, shit in the woods!"
The bear, recognizing the fact that anyone brave enough to wake it up in the first place was obviously someone not to be screwed with, ran away, tail between its legs. As if kicking a bear out of its house wasn't suicidally badass enough for one lifetime, some time later Columbanus came upon a bear feasting on the carcass of a deer in the middle of the woods. The saint decided that he could probably use some new shoes, and so casually ordered the bear not to harm the skin of the deer so that he could use it to make a new pair.
But Columbanus hadn't even begun to prove to bears everywhere who the boss was yet. When the monastery where Columbanus lived was having trouble planting its crops one year, he solved this problem the only way he knew how: by making a bear look stupid. He summoned one of the apex predators from a nearby forest and hooked it up to a plow like a common mule. The records don't say for sure whether or not he later saddled the bear and rode it around all day to intimidate his enemies, so we're forced to assume that he did.
"Can I go now?"
"No, not until you ride around on that tiny bicycle we got you."
St. Christina the Astonishing was an Astonishing X-Men
According to the medieval historians Thomas of Cantimpre and Jacques de Vitry, a nice girl named Christina was in her early 20s when she suffered a seizure and apparently died. Now, since it was the 13th century and medicine was not all that advanced, it was a tad surprising when she woke up during her funeral and vehemently disagreed with being buried ...
"Can you at least try out the coffin before you say no?"
Did we say disagreed? We mean she frickin' flew up all the way to the rafters of the chapel, complaining about the sinful stench of the unwashed masses below. Indeed, "astonishing" is probably a title well earned at that stage. But wait, it gets even better.
The story goes that the young woman declared that she had seen purgatory and decided that her suffering in their stead would help guide souls out of the cleansing fire straight into heaven. So suffer she did, and no, she didn't half-ass it with some minor self-flagellation. Witnesses testified that she had been seen crawling into live ovens, handling fire, standing in freezing water for hours, getting mauled by dogs and, finally, being dragged around and around by a mill wheel. And all that without sustaining so much as a single scratch.
However, they found her Steve Martin impression lacking.
When she wasn't out flinging herself into danger, she would sleep in tombs and caves, climb trees and buildings or simply levitate to avoid contact with the people she identified as sinners by their smell alone. Hmm ... a woman who died but then came back more powerful than ever, with the ability to fly, who was pretty much invulnerable? And exhibiting subtle signs of mental imbalance? Yep, she was pretty much the Catholic Jean Grey.
"Hail Jean, full of Grey, Cyclops is with thee ..."
St. Joseph of Cupertino Could Fly
Most saints used their miraculous powers to help their fellow man: healing the sick, feeding the hungry or something equally altruistic. As far as we know, there was only one saint who used his miraculous powers just to look really, really badass. St. Joseph of Cupertino was an Italian friar who could, according to legend, fly. And none of this David Blaine "hovering an inch and a half off the ground" crap, either. He's reported to have been capable of soaring into the sky and flying over crowds of people like Superman in a robe.
Also, he was apparently the Crucifix Hamburglar.
The first reported instance of Joseph giving gravity the finger was during a procession on the feast day for St. Francis of Assisi. Joseph was just helping out, walking around like the rest of us land-based humans, when he suddenly became overwhelmed by the spirit and soared into the air, hanging out over the crowd until one of his superiors ordered him to come down. Joseph was apparently so embarrassed by the incident that he ran to his mother's house instead of, we don't know, continuing to do barrel rolls all day while screaming "I can freaking fly, bitches!" like we'd do in the same situation.
"Dude, I'm open! Open! No, up here!"
This wasn't a one-off, either. Joseph's flights became so frequent that the friars reportedly had to forbid him from doing it because he was causing a distraction. Evidently friars had better things to do with their time back then than watch somebody break the laws of physics.
"Joseph, don't make us tether you!"
This ban may have been for Joseph's own safety, however, since he's reported to have been a bit of a moron. Known for being incredibly simple, he couldn't read or write and his lack of intelligence was supposedly so pronounced that it actually led to him becoming, among other things, the patron saint of the mentally handicapped. In other words, if the stories are to be believed, then one day God apparently thought to himself, "I wonder what would happen if I gave the idiot superpowers?"
For more reasons the bible is like comic books, check out 5 Real Deleted Bible Scenes In Which Jesus Kicks Some Ass and The 9 Most Badass Bible Verses.