British and Irish saints, ranked by cruelty to reptiles

Happy St Patrick’s day, where the people of Ireland (but mostly Chicago) celebrate a man who killed thousands of snakes. Patrick was no friend to the reptiles, but was he the worst? Let’s find out!

8. Godric
Godric was your typical Medieval hermit – wandered around Europe, lived alone, was thought of as very wise. And, as the story goes, he let snakes warm themselves by his fire. Godric was not mean to reptiles at all, and scores 0/10 on the meanness scale.

Godric being godly

7. Brendan
Brendan was pretty cool. What do you associate with saints? How about round the world journeys to discover new lands and fight demons? Seriously, here’s a typical example of one of his adventures from Wikipedia: “They find an island with a dog, mysterious hospitality (no people, but food left out), and an Ethiopian devil.” Anyway, one of the things he encountered was a big island called Jasconius. The monks landed, started fires, celebrated Easter… and then realised Jasconius is a giant snake. Sure, they set a snake on fire, but only by accident. 1/10.

Brendan on a sea monster. This one looks more fishy than reptilian.

6. Columba and 5. Cummein
Columba is, like, the deputy vice patron saint of Ireland. If Patrick and Brigit both took the day off, Columba would do the job. His claim to fame is converting the Scottish Picts, and while he was in Scotland he supposedly encountered the one and only Loch Ness Monster. He didn’t really do anything mean to it, just the sign of the cross, which was enough to scare it away. Saint Cummein (a local abbot) meanwhile tried putting a harness on the monster and had it plough a field. This went great, right up until the monster decided it had had enough and jumped back in the loch, drowning an unfortunate monk. 1/10 and 2/10 respectively

Couldn't find any pics of him with the Loch Ness Monster, but here's a horse.

4. Patrick
We all know Patrick’s deal. Arrive on Ireland, impress the locals by commanding all the snakes to drown themselves. This was easier than it sounds, since Ireland has never had any snakes on it. 4/10

With his snake-repelling stick

3. Hilda
If you haven’t heard of her, Hilda is the patron saint of Whitby. There is a cool abbey in Whitby which was originally founded by Hilda, and hosted the Synod of Whitby at which monks decided to shave their heads and use the Roman calendar. The ruined abbey inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which in turn inspired Whitby Goth Weekend, which makes that basically her fault. Hilda’s deal was basically like Patrick’s, but more sadistic. She made the snakes jump off the cliff, and then turned them into stone. Some palaeontologists will tell you that the “stone snakes” on Whitby beach are actually ammonite fossils but WHATEVER.  6/10, for that extra bit of cruelty.

An ammonite carved to look (a bit) like a snake. Source: John St John, Wikipedia, CC-BY

2. George
George was not really English at all. He was born in either Palestine or Turkey, and the dragon he fought either lived somewhere in the Middle East or in Libya. He may not even have known Britain existed. But as it turned out, this total lack of connection to England actually helped him catch on, since he wasn’t associated with any particular region or trade. One of Henry VIII’s last acts was to declare George the sole patron saint of England. We all know what George did – a town had a dragon fall asleep in its river, so they asked George to get rid of it. George could have waved his hand like Patrick, or done the sign of the cross like Columba, but no, he had to go and stab it with a lance. 7/10

From a WWI recruiting poster - ironically, St George was also a symbol of Germany

1. Leonard
Leonard, a French noble who lived in Sussex, was a massive dick to reptiles. He was a reptile massacrer. He made it his mission to ride around his forest killing dragons, and when he exterminated the last dragon in Great Britain, what did he ask for as a reward? That all the nightingales be silenced so they wouldn’t interrupt his prayers, and that all the snakes be forced out of the forest. For combining the herpetophobia of both George and Patrick, Leonard scores a 10/10 on the reptile cruelty scale.

Look at that face. That is a man who just hates dragons, snakes and birds.

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