Sarah O'Connor

Writer – Playwright – Cannot Save You From The Robot Apocalypse

I could think of no saint more appropriate for the first post on Surprising Saints then the one and only Saint Guinefort (Geen, as in green, four), who was in fact a dog.

Yes, a dog. A greyhound to be exact!

An illustration done in a style like stained glass. A brown dog stands on four legs in the centre of the picture with a yellow halo over his head. The dog, St. Guinefort, stands on green grass and below his two front paws is a dead snake. The sky is blue behind him.

I first learned about Saint Guinefort from artist Jessica Roux’s Woodland Wardens oracle deck in which the twenty-third card, which signifies loyalty, shows a hound dog and a pear. In her description of the card, Roux tells the story of Saint Guinefort, and I was stunned to be hearing about a dog saint for the first time. Stunned, but I also couldn’t stop laughing. I mean, it’s a dog saint! I then started thinking of an alternate universe in which I had chosen Saint Guinefort as my Saint’s name instead of St. Joan of Arc (not that I actually regret choosing her, you’re the real MVP Joan!).

Not that the church would ever let any young confirmandi choose Guinefort as their saint’s name. Let’s look into why that is.

The story goes that in the 12th or 13th century, near Lyon in France, a knight or nobleman left his home one day and trusted his dog, Guinefort, to watch his infant son. When he returned home he discovered the baby missing, his cradle upturned, and Guinefort’s mouth covered in blood. The knight/nobleman assumed the dog had killed his son and in a fit of rage killed Guinefort with his sword. When he returned to his home after killing the dog, the knight/nobleman found the baby safely alive under the crib and a dead snake mauled with dog bites. It soon became clear the Guinefort had protected the baby from the venomous viper, putting himself at risk. Guilty, the nobleman/knight buried Guinefort with a marker of stones and planted trees around the dog’s grave to honour him. There were then rumours that God avenged Guienefort’s death by destroying the nobleman/knight’s home (The Greyhound Saint).

Read more about Saint Guinefort on my Substack!

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