Feast Day : May 15
Patronage: against epilepsy; family harmony; against insanity; nerves; against mental disorders; against possession; runaways; against sleep disorders
Also known as: Dympna, Dimpna
The story of Dymphna is told in legend and has no historical foundation. An oral tradition existed for centuries and was set down in writing in the mid-13th century. At that time Dymphna had been venerated for many years in Gheel, in the province of Antwerp, Belgium, and a church there was devoted to her. She was invoked against insanity. According to the legend, Dymphna was the daughter of a pagan king in Ireland. She converted to Christianity and was baptized in secret. After her mother died, her father desired to marry her. With the priest Gerebernus, she escaped to Gheel. They became hermits. Her father found them. When he failed to persuade Dymphna to marry him, he had the priest slain and cut off his daughter’s head. The bodies were placed in sarcophagi and entombed in a cave. The remains were found, probably in the 13th century. Dymphna was transferred to Gheel and Gerebernus to Xanten. Fragments of the sarcophagi are in Gheel, along with a brick alleged to have been found in one of them, bearing the word DYMPNA. In art Dymphna is shown with a sword in her hand and a fettered devil at her feet.