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.
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.
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 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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mexican nun Juana Inés de la Cruz was one of the finest authors of the Latin American colonial era. Initially the lady-in-waiting of Mexico’s viceroy, she later took her vows. She built a huge library and penned masterpieces such as the poem Primero sueño and the religious drama El divino Narciso.
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.
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.
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.
Bernard of Clairvaux, or Saint Bernard, was a 12th-century Burgundian monk, who became the abbot of the abbey of Clairvaux, founded by him. He chose to live a life of physical austerities, which caused him ailments such as anemia. He is revered as the patron saint of beekeepers and candlemakers.
Columba was an Irish abbot and missionary evangelist. At the beginning of the Hiberno-Scottish mission, he played a major role in spreading Christianity in what is today Scotland. After studying under some of Ireland's most prominent church figures, he founded several monasteries. He is revered as a Catholic saint and one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.
Albertus Magnus was a friar, bishop, and philosopher. Regarded by some as the greatest German theologian and philosopher of the Middle Ages, Albertus' writings have inspired the iconography of the archivolts and tympanum of the 13th-century portal of Strasbourg Cathedral. Remembered for his contribution to academics, several education institutions have been named after Albertus Magnus.
Polish Catholic nun Faustyna Kowalska is remembered for her diary, which recorded her multiple visions of Jesus and was later published. She later got an artist to paint the Image of the Divine Mercy, based on her visions. Known as the Apostle of Divine Mercy, she was canonized as a saint in 2000.
Rose of Lima is revered as the patron saint of Peru. Legend has it that she had chopped off her hair and damaged her skin to avoid getting married. A member of the Dominican Order, she was the first from the Americas to be canonized by the Catholic Church.
Deborah was an Israeli prophetess and a judge of Israel who made her judgments underneath a date palm tree between Bethel in the Tribe of Ephraim and Ramah in Benjamin. According to the Bible, Deborah was the only female judge in pre-monarchic Israel.
Martin of Tours, the patron saint of France, had initially fought for the Roman army. Born to Pagan parents, he converted to Christianity at age 10. Legend has it that a vision of Jesus in a dream, after he shared his cloak with a beggar, had pushed Martin into religion.
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.
Elizabeth, the daughter of Hungarian king Andrew II, was married at 14 but lost her husband to a plague in Italy at 20. She then joined the Third Order of St. Francis and opened a hospital for the poor. She is revered as the patron saint of the homeless.
Jean Vianney was a French Catholic priest active in the first half of the 19th century. Venerated in the Catholic Church as a saint and as the patron saint of parish priests, he is also referred to as the "Curé d'Ars." He was devoted to St. Philomena, who he regarded as his guardian. His feast day is 4 August.
Called the Gentleman Saint for his tenderness and patience, Francis de Sales was a Catholic priest and Bishop of Geneva (1602-1622). Canonized in 1665, he was later proclaimed Doctor of the Church for his contribution to theology and patron of writers and journalists for his extensive use of broadsheets and books. He also invented sign languages for teaching the deaf.