The patron saint of lovers, beekeepers, and epileptics, Saint Valentine was a 3rd-century Roman saint from Terni. One legend describes how he cured a jailer’s daughter of blindness. He was martyred during the persecution of Christians by Claudius II Gothicus. Valentine’s Day is celebrated in his honor on February 14.
An Italian Catholic friar, deacon, mystic, and preacher, St Francis of Assisi was the founder of the men's Order of Friars Minor and the women's Order of Saint Clare. He arranged for the first Christmas live nativity scene in 1223. Also known as Francesco, he is one of the most venerated religious figures in Christianity.
A 4th-century bishop of Milan, Aurelius Ambrosius was a strong supporter of the Latin church and a vocal opponent of Arianism and paganism. He also converted St. Augustine of Hippo. He is also remembered as an important literary figure and also composed several hymns.
Pope Leo I was the bishop of Rome from 440 to 461. A Roman Aristocrat, he is credited to have convinced Attila the Hun to turn back from his invasion of Italy. He was a prolific writer and around 100 sermons and 150 letters composed by him have been preserved. The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates him on 18 February.
Agatha of Sicily is a Christian saint, one of the several virgin martyrs commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass. She was put to death during the Decian persecution (250–253) in Catania, Sicily. Owing to her determined profession of faith, she is highly venerated in Christianity. She is the patron saint of martyrs and wet nurses.
Robert Bellarmine was an Italian Jesuit and cardinal of the Catholic Church. One of the most important figures in the Counter-Reformation, he has been named a Doctor of the Church. He has also been canonized as a saint. He was a professor of theology at the Roman College and later became its rector. He became Archbishop of Capua in 1602.
Pope John XXIII served as the Bishop of Rome and head of the Catholic Church from 1958 until his death in 1963. He took many people by surprise when he called the historic Second Vatican Council, which addressed relations between the modern world and the Catholic Church. Pope John XXIII was canonized on 27 April 2014.
Gianna Beretta Molla was a Roman Catholic pediatrician, canonized as a saint for saving her unborn child’s life at the expense of her own. Although she knew that the removal of only the fibroma would endanger her life, she refused have an abortion, thus upholding the Roman Catholic doctrine that even an unborn child has a fundamental right to life.
Remembered as the first antipope, Hippolytus of Rome is believed to have gone against the Roman popes and led a group against the bishop of Rome. Before dying as a martyr, though, he reconciled with Pontian and called out to his supporters to reunite with Rome.
Catholic bishop Alphonsus Liguori was the man behind the formation of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, also known as the Redemptorists. He stepped into his spiritual life after an 8-year stint as a lawyer. He is also remembered for his works on moral theology and equiprobabilism.
A 4th-century bishop of Benevento and a patron saint of Naples, Saint Januarius is said to have been martyred during the Great Persecution under Roman emperor Diocletian. It is believed that his blood, which has been solidified and preserved in the Naples Cathedral, liquefies 18 times a year.
Bonaventure was an Italian philosopher, scholastic theologian, and Franciscan. A prominent philosopher, Bonaventure wrote on various subjects and his writings are considered substantial. Bonaventure, who served as the Cardinal Bishop of Albano, was canonized by Pope Sixtus IV on 14 April 1482.
Pope Gregory I served as the bishop of Rome from 590 until his death in 604. He is best remembered for sending the Gregorian Mission to Britain, which was successful in converting the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. He is also credited with developing the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts and is widely regarded as its de facto author.
Pope Pius IX served as the longest-tenured pope. His reign also witnessed the first Vatican Council and was thus the last pope who had control over the Papal States. He also issued the Syllabus of Errors and inspired books such as The Pope Who Would Be King by David Kertzer.
Pope Alexander I was a 2nd-century bishop of Rome. Some believe he introduced the custom of the holy water and of mixing sacramental wine with water. Some also believe he may have been martyred during the reign of Trajan or Hadrian. He is believed to have had a vision of baby Jesus.
While some historians believe that Pope Pius I was initially a slave, others believe he was a man of low ranks. He is known to have battled both Gnosticism and Valentinianism as a pope. Though some believe he was martyred, the claims remain unsubstantiated. His feast day is July 11.
A 1st-century Greek-origin bishop of Rome, Pope Sixtus I was a successor of Pope St. Alexander I. He served the Catholic Church under the rule of Roman emperor Hadrian. Most sources believe he ruled as a pope for about 10 years. Though considered a martyr by some, his martyrdom remains unsubstantiated.
The founder of the Salesian Order, John Bosco, also known as Don Bosco, started his life as a priest in Turin. He began teaching young boys who came to Turin for jobs and later branched out to form a similar institution for girls too, with St. Mary Mazzarello.
A 4th-century bishop of Rome, Pope Damasus I is remembered for building ties between the Church of Rome and the Church of Antioch. His pontificate witnessed the use of Latin as the language of the mass. He was also vocal against major heresies. He is revered as a patron saint of archaeologists.
The bishop of Rome from 199 to 217, Pope Zephyrinus faced strong opposition from Roman priest St. Hippolytus, who began the first schism of the Christian Church. Ironically, the only source of information on Zephyrinus is Hippolytus’s Philosophoumena. He is remembered for combating heresies.
Pope Telesphorus served as the bishop of Rome from 126 until his death in 137. He is venerated as a patron saint of the order by the Carmelites. Some sources even portray him as a hermit living on Mount Carmel. Saint-Télesphore, a town in Canada's Quebec province, is named after Pope Telesphorus.
Catherine of Siena was a mystic, author, and activist. Thanks to her influence over Pope Gregory XI, Catherine is widely regarded as a prominent figure of medieval Catholicism. She also had a strong influence on the Catholic Church and Italian literature. Canonized in 1461, Catherine of Siena was declared the patron saint of Italy in 1939.
Pope Sixtus II served as the bishop of Rome from 257 to 258. He was among the deacons who were persecuted by Emperor Valerian. One of the first victims to be beheaded on 6 August 258, Pope Sixtus II was martyred with six other deacons. He is venerated by the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Italian theologian and missionary Bernardino of Siena contributed immensely to the growth of the Franciscan order of the Observants. Born into a noble family, he was orphaned as a child and served plague patients initially. He was known for his extreme views against homosexuality, witchcraft, and gambling.
Pope Gregory VII is remembered for his role in the Investiture Controversy or the Gregorian Reform. He became the first pope to depose a ruler, Emperor Henry IV, leading to a long conflict between the Catholic Church and the monarchy. He is now revered as a Catholic saint.