August 17

Saint Guinefort

Posted by lori . 4 Comments


Next Tuesday, August 22, is the feast day of Saint Guinefort.  Who is Saint Guinefort and why am I writing about him on Wednesday, the day reserved for all things Greyhound?  Let me tell you…

Saint Guinefort was a 13th-century Greyhound from France.  After miracles were reported at his grave, he received local veneration.  Although St. Guinefort was never recognized by the Catholic Church, the cult of St. Guinefort persisted until the 1930’s.

Guinefort belonged to a knight who lived in a castle near Lyon, France.  One day, the knight went hunting, leaving his infant son in the care of Guinefort.  When he returned, he found the nursery in chaos – the cot was overturned, the child was nowhere to be seen and Guinefort greeted his master with bloody jaws.  Believing Guinefort had devoured his son, the knight drew his sword and killed the dog.  He then heard a child crying.  He turned over the cot and found his son lying there, safe and sound, along with the body of a viper.  Guinefort had killed the snake and saved the child.  Realizing the mistake, the family dropped the dog down a well, covered it with stones and planted trees around it, setting up a shrine for Guinefort.  Guinefort became recognised by the local peasants as a saint for the protection of infants.

This story is actually a variation of one of the world’s most well traveled tales and is based on a story from India called The Brahmin and the Mongoose.  The story tells of the rash killing of a faithful animal and warns against hasty action.  There is a similar Welsh legend, Llewellyn and his dog Gellert.

An interesting part of the legend of Saint Guinefort is that a Dominican friar, Stephen of Bourbon, related the story in 1240 in the work, De Supersticione.  He tells the tale of Guinefort and says, “We went to this place, we called together all the people on the estate, and we preached against everything that had been said.  We had the dead dog disinterred, and the sacred wood cut down and burnt, along with the remains of the dog. And had an edict passed by the lords of the estate, warning that anyone going thenceforth to that place for any such reason would be liable to have his possessions seized and then sold.”

So you decide.  Are the legends of Saint Guinefort and Gellert folk tales based on an old motif or could these be true tales of loyalty, duty and bravery?  Regardless, Freedom, Casper and Nikki are celebrating the Feast of St. Guinefort on August 22 and want a special treat.  They believe.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 17th, 2011 at 3:00 am and is filed under Greyt Hounds (Greyhounds). You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to " Saint Guinefort"

  • houndstooth says:

    When Mom wrote about Gellert a while back, she says there were claims that people knew where the body was buried, and that’s enough for me! I’ll be celebrating next week, too!


  • Padfoot says:

    We are a loyal bunch, greyhounds. George and I both guard our home quite ferociously. I wouldn’t advise anyone to come in uninvited, although there are a few that have. Fortunately Mom was around to keep us from eating them. We are very protective of Mom so I can certainly see protecting a little one if we had one of those around. We shall have to have a celebration as well. Thanks for sharing the info!


  • Cadfael's shadow says:

    Hooray for St Guinefort! And as to the question about the authenticity of the story vs myth; … with the loyalty that we witness every single day from our animal friends… can there really be any doubt a greyhound would act as he did, should the need arise? 🙂

    I have just one tiny, nitpicky comment regarding the pic for the article; this one above might not be St Guinefort, but St Christopher, who is sometimes represented as having a human body and a canine head.. Not a big deal, but just my nosey two-cents worth!! 🙂

    • lori says:

      I have read about this…the confusion between St. Christopher and St. Guinefort. I don’t know how to tell the difference. Thank you for your nice comment.

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