23 May 2018, The Tablet

The greyhound revered as a saint

St Guinefort

The greyhound revered as a saint

Sometime towards the end of the thirteenth century, the Dominican friar Stephen of Bourbon visited an area of south-eastern France known as the Dombes, and there found that women were venerating a St Guinefort as a healer of children. He was extremely pleased. But then he made an unsettling discovery; St Guinefort was not, as he had assumed, a holy man, but a greyhound. 

According to Stephen’s famous treatise On the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, a do-it-yourself manual for fellow inquisitors, a greyhound had saved the life of a baby who had been attacked by a snake. The baby’s father, the lord of the nearby castle, killed the hound, believing it had tried to harm his child. When he discovered his baby safe and the serpent dead, he deeply regretted his actions.

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