Considered a great saint and a symbol of French unity, Joan of Arc led the French army to the watershed victory over the English forces in Orleans in 1429. In 1430, she was captured by the Anglo-Burgundians while defending Compiegne. She was burned at the stake at the age of 19 in 1431. Pope Benedict XV canonised her in 1920.
An Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and a missionary, Mother Teresa was the founder of Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation. She was both an admired and controversial figure and was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. While she was admired by many for her charitable work, she also earned criticism for her stance against abortion and contraception.
Mary Magdalene was an important biblical figure. It is said that she witnessed many of Jesus' miracles and life events, including his crucifixion and the subsequent resurrection. Since it is claimed that Magdalene was a prostitute, she has been viewed as the patroness of wayward women in the modern era. Her life has inspired several important works of art.
One of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, Saint Peter played a key role in the formation of Christianity as one of the earliest leaders of the early Church. Considered to be the first Pope by Catholics, Saint Peter appears frequently in influential texts, such as the New Testament. Over the years, Saint Peter has been an important subject of paintings.
Saint George was a Christian soldier in the Roman army who is accepted as a saint in Christianity. He was sentenced to death for refusing to recant his Christian faith and was executed by decapitation, according to Greek tradition. Saint George's Day is celebrated in his memory on 23 April. He is one of the most venerated saints in Christianity.
Saint Patrick was a Romano-British bishop and Christian missionary in Ireland. Widely regarded as the main patron saint of Ireland, Patrick is often referred to as the Apostle of Ireland. According to early medieval tradition, Patrick is credited with popularizing Christianity in Ireland. His life and work inspired the 2000 TV historical drama film, St. Patrick: The Irish Legend.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish Basque Catholic priest and theologian in the 16th century. He was one of the founders of the religious order called the Society of Jesus and served as its first Superior General at Paris. He was an inspired spiritual director and the founder of what is today known as "Ignatian spirituality."
Alexandra Feodorovna, wife of Emperor Nicholas II, was the last Russian tsarina and reigned from 1894 to 1917. She suffered from hemophilia. Alexandra and her entire family were murdered by the Bolshevik revolutionaries. In 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church canonized her as Saint Alexandra the Passion Bearer.
Hildegard of Bingen was a German writer, composer, Christian mystic, visionary, philosopher, polymath, and Benedictine abbess of the High Middle Ages. Apart from being the most-recorded composers of sacred monophony in modern history, Hildegard of Bingen is also widely regarded as the founder of scientific natural history.
The Book of Jonah of the Old Testament talks about Jonah, the prophet. Jonah apparently set sail to Tarshish instead of listening to God and traveling to Nineveh to warn its citizens of God’s wrath due to its wickedness. However, shipwrecked, he eventually ends up warning Nineveh of the impending danger.
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.
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.
James, brother of Jesus, was a Christian apostle and led the Jerusalem Christians. Mentioned in the Gospels as one of the four brothers of Jesus. He was apparently stoned to death or thrown from a tower by priestly authorities. Some scholars believe he was more of a cousin of Jesus.
Junípero Serra was a Roman Catholic priest who is credited with founding the Franciscan Missions of the Sierra Gorda. He is also credited with founding nine of the 21 Spanish missions in California. On 25 September 1988, Junípero Serra was beatified in the Vatican City by Pope John Paul II. On 23 September 2015, he was canonized by Pope Francis.
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.
Mark the Evangelist is credited with authoring the Gospel of Mark, the second of the four canonical gospels. Also credited with founding the Church of Alexandria, Mark is regarded as one of the most prominent episcopal sees of early Christianity. Over the years, Mark the Evangelist has been the subject of several paintings.
Best known for his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, The Venerable Bede was an Anglo Saxon theologian and historian. An English Benedictine monk, he was taken to the monastery of St. Peter at age 7. He is now revered as the patron saint of English writers and historians.
Saint Dominic was a Castilian Catholic priest who is credited with founding the Dominican Order. Dominic is said to have abstained from meat throughout his life. He is also remembered for putting himself to undue hardship like traveling barefoot and rejecting the luxury of a bed. He is regarded as the patron saint of astronomers.
Ignatius of Antioch went down in history as a man who was arrested and executed for his non-allegiance to Roman gods. The seven letters he wrote while being escorted from Antioch to Rome as a prisoner later served as a mirror that reflected his concern for Christianity, against false teachings.
Legendary 10th-century Chinese monk Budai, is better known as The Laughing Buddha and The Fat Buddha. Named after the “budai” or cloth sack that he carried with him, he was considered an avatar of Maitreya, or the future Buddha. His figures adorn many homes, as a symbol of prosperity and contentment.
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.
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.
Nizamuddin Auliya was an Indian Sunni Muslim scholar and Sufi saint of the Chishti Order. He stressed love as a means of realizing God and believed that love of God implies love of humanity. He is considered one of the most famous Sufis from the Indian Subcontinent. His teachings were marked by an evolved sense of religious pluralism and kindness.
Saint Barbara was an early Christian Lebanese and Greek saint and martyr. She is also known as the Great Martyr Barbara in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Not much is known about her life and work as there is no mention of her in the authentic early Christian writings. She is considered one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers in Roman Catholicism.
Athanasius of Alexandria was the 20th bishop of Alexandria. A well-known Egyptian leader of the 4th century, Athanasius' career was shaped by his conflicts with Arius and successive Roman emperors. He is venerated as a saint and his feast day is observed on different days depending upon the various churches.
Saint Augustine was a philosopher, theologian, and the bishop of Hippo Regius in Roman North Africa. His writings are often credited with influencing the growth of Western Christianity and Western philosophy. He is also regarded as one of the Latin Church's most important Church Fathers in the Patristic Period. Among his many important works are Confessions and On Christian Doctrine.
Greek bishop Irenaeus, now revered as a Catholic saint, is remembered for his clashes with the Gnostics and his notable work Adversus haereses. Irenaeus apparently preached about the validity of the Jewish Bible, while the Gnostics were against it. Legend has it that he had seen Polycarp of Smyrna.
Edith Stein was a German Jewish philosopher who studied at the University of Freiburg and completed her dissertation on empathy. Always interested in Catholicism, she read the autobiography of the mystic Teresa of Ávila and converted to Christianity, and became a Discalced Carmelite nun. She was killed in the Auschwitz concentration camp and is canonized as a martyr.
Pope Urban II, also known as Otho de Lagery, began as an archdeacon in Reims. He gradually rose through the ranks to become the bishop of Ostia. Later, as the pope, he dealt with conflicts within Christianity and also had a major role in promoting the Crusades against Muslims.
Pope Pius X was the head of the Catholic Church from 1903 to 1914. He is credited for initiating the preparation of the 1917 Code of Canon Law. He was vehemently opposed to modernism as a pope. He regularly gave homily sermons in the pulpit, a rare practice for popes. He was beatified in 1951 and canonized in 1954.