Wednesday, May 10, 2006

May 10

On a spring night, ca. 880, a young shepherdess from Bourges named Solange was brutally murdered by a wretched soul named Bernard, son of the Count of Poitiers. According to legend, Solange had vowed at the age of seven to preserve her virginity, pledging her fidelity to Christ alone; maintaining those vows into adulthood, she passed her days tending to the family flock, praying exuberantly, exorcising devils and performing miraculous cures upon the sick. Her landlord Bernard, awestruck by Solange's unspoiled beauty, flew into a rage when the young woman refused his monotonous advances. During an attempted kidnapping, Solange twisted herself free from Bernard's horse and fell to the ground, injuring herself. Limping desperately from the scene, the shepherdess was quickly overtaken and beheaded. Undeterred, the now-martyred Solange quickly retrieved her severed head and walked to the church of Saint-Martin in the village of Saint-Martin-du-Crot, where she preached a sermon to the assembled locals. The subject of her address -- and the reaction of the villagers -- is sadly unrecorded. Four centuries later, in 1281, an altar to Solange was built at the church of Saint-Martin, where her severed head was preserved as a sacred relic. From time to time, the reliquary head would be removed from its place of rest and marched aloft through the streets of Bourges to ward off drought.

To hyper-observant Catholics -- for whom every day presents the opportunity to recall someone's disembowelment, immolation or decapitation -- May 10 is recognized as the Feast of St. Solange. Around my house, the date simply marks the passage of two weeks since my daughter, who has yet made no Solangian oaths, was born.