Holy Helpers

Twelve out of the “Fourteen Holy Helpers” or “Auxiliary Saints” are depicted here. The auxiliary saints, a medieval grouping that began in the Rhineland and spread elsewhere in western Europe, were those thought to have especially effective intercession against diseases and at the hour of death: Acacius, Barbara, Blaise, Catherine of Alexandria, Christopher, Cyricus, Denys, Erasmus, Eustace, George, Giles, Margaret of Antioch, Pantaleon, and Vitus. Substitutes for one or another of these saints include Antony, Leonard, Nicholas, Sebastian, or Roch.

The cult of the holy helpers was suppressed at the Reformation and after Trent, but of course the intercession of saints in times of illness or near death remains important in Catholicism. If we were to identify saints whose intercession we particularly desire in those times of our lives, who would be on the list today I wonder?

The elegance and detail of the carved figures are typical of Riemenschnieder. I find this set of figures especially lively because of the way they all seem to be pulling in the same direction.

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