at prayer

St. John the Baptist
St John the Baptist
Feast Day 24 June: Son Servera
St John the Hairy: San Lorenç
St John the Baptist Beheaded 29 August: Estellencs, Sant Joan The story of St John the Baptist is as well known as that of Christ Himself but perhaps not so well known is the story of the three findings of his head. After his death, his disciples took the head and buried it but the emperor had it exhumed and buried in a dung heap, whereupon the wife of his steward removed it secretly and reburied it on Mount Olives.

There it remained until it was found for the first time in the fourth century when a monk, digging the foundations for a chapel, came upon it. Fearful of it suffering indignities, he left it there.

It was found for the second time in 452, when St John revealed its hiding place to two monks in a vision. They dug up the relic and placed in a sack. Tiring of carrying it, they handed to an unnamed potter. Once again St John appeared and told the potter to make off with it and leave the unworthy monks. It eventually reached Constantinople and remained there until the danger of Muslim raids led to it being hidden in the ground at Comana (modern Turkey).

This hiding place was revealed to the Patriarch of Constantinople in the ninth century, once again in a vision, and the head returned to the city. However, legends about the head abound. There were rumours that the Knights Templar had some form of head worship, reputed to be that of St John, in the early fourteenth century; many churches lay claim to their head being his, and there are also several relics of his right hand (the one that baptised Christ) being preserved.

Sant Joan Pelut is the patron saint of San Llorenç. Said to be a personification of St John the Baptist from his days in the wilderness, his name mean “hairy”. A character by this name appears in one of the miracle plays of the Middle Ages. Somewhat unusually he murders the princess before repenting and achieving sainthood. There is also a late sixteenth century Orthodox saint, St John the Hairy, (died 1591), so-named for his abundant head of hair.