Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Corbinian's bear

When you think about it, given the randomness and six degrees of connection that often determine saintly patronage, it is remarkable that Saint Corbinian is not the patron of red caps, bellhops, and Louis Vuitton. Or maybe it is the very logic that obviates it.
Here the well-known story: Back in the eighth century, Corbinian headed to Rome for some piece and quiet (away from the distracting fame of his holiness). While crossing the Brenner Pass into Italy, a bear came along and killed Corbinian’s packhorse. Undaunted, the saint put the horse’s reins and his pack on the bear, who dutifully (repentantly) bore the load. Corbinian arrived in Rome with a tame bear.
This is the part of the story we hear less about: before arriving in Rome two other horses of Corbinian were stolen by thieves, and they were not let off so easily. According to Butler’s, “Retribution soon overtook both these thieves, for the one died and the other lost 42 of his own horses from elephantiasis.” Which seems harsh.

Factoids: For obvious reasons, Corbinian’s symbol is a bear; Corbinian’s relics reside at Freising; there is a bear on the Freising coat of arms; the current Pope Benedict was formerly archbishop of Freising and incorporated the bear into his coat of arms; now there is a bear on his papal coat of arms.

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