Spiritual & Religious Leaders

Religion and spirituality are two things that are probably the most difficult to define in definite terms. It would be wrong to say that spirituality and religion don’t go hand in hand because they do; the only difference is that while religion is an organized system that pays homage to a god, spirituality is something that does not always need a deity to define the parameters of the person’s spiritual conduct. Throughout history there have been people who have played the roles of, both, spiritual and religious leaders for their societies. Some of them have done such exemplary work, with such dedication, that their work, and in turn they themselves, were recognized the world over for their steadfast dedication and wisdom in guiding their flock. Some examples of religious leaders would be people like the Dalai Lama and Pope Benedict XVI while a list of spiritual leaders would include people like the famous Osho Rajneesh. It is natural, at this point, to look for more information about these people and others like then so here is a list of just such people along with their biographies, timelines, trivia, life stories and interesting facts about them.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ
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Famous As: Founder of Christianity
Birthdate: 0000 AD
First-century Jewish preacher Jesus, known as the Son of God, led to the formation of Christianity, the world’s largest religion. He was born to Joseph and the Virgin Mary. His miracles irked the Roman government, who then tried him and crucified him. Jesus later rose from the dead.

 2 Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa
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Famous As: Founder of Missionaries of Charity
Birthdate: August 26, 1910
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: Albanian, Indian
Died: September 5, 1997

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.

 3 Pope Francis

Pope Francis
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Birthdate: December 17, 1936
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: Argentinian

Pope Francis is the sovereign of the Vatican City and head of the Catholic Church. He is the first Jesuit pope and first non-European pope since Pope Gregory III. Often praised for having a comparatively less formal approach, Pope Francis is popular for his humility, international visibility, and concern for the poor.

 4 Gautama Buddha

Gautama Buddha
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Famous As: Founder of Buddhism
Birthdate: 0563 BC
Nationality: Nepalese
Died: 0483 BC

Gautama Buddha is said to have lived in the 5th to 4th century BC and is revered as the founder of Buddhism. He is said to have spread his teachings for around 45 years based on his insights regarding suffering, nirvana and cycle of birth and rebirth. He had a large following. He obtained ‘enlightenment’ in India’s Bodh Gaya.

 5 Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda
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Famous As: Indian Monk
Birthdate: January 12, 1863
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: Indian
Died: July 4, 1902

The founder of the Ramakrishna Mission and Ramakrishna Math, Swami Vivekananda was an Indian Hindu monk, philosopher, and spiritual leader. He is credited with introducing the Indian philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta to the Western world. He is also credited with elevating the status of Hinduism as a major religion in the modern world by raising interfaith awareness.

 6 Moses

Moses
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Famous As: Hebrew Religious Leader, Lawgiver, Prophet
Birthdate: 1391 BC
Nationality: Egyptian, Jordanian
Died: 1272 BC

A prominent prophet in Islam, Christianity, and the Baháʼí Faith among other Abrahamic religions, Moses is also the most important prophet in Judaism. One of the most important biblical characters, Moses received the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments are fundamental to both Christianity and Judaism. The authorship of the Torah is also attributed to Moses.

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 7 St Paul

St Paul
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Famous As: Religious Preacher
Birthdate: 0005 AD
Nationality: Italian, Turkish
Died: 0067 AD
Paul the Apostle, or Saint Paul, was a Christian apostle who disseminated Christ’s teachings and established Christian communities in Asia and Europe. Of the 27 books in the New Testament, about 14 are said to be authored by Paul, though only seven are said to be genuinely written by him.
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 8 Paul of Tarsus

Paul of Tarsus
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Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: 0005 AD
Nationality: Italian
Died: 0064 AD
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 9 Abraham

Abraham
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Famous As: Religious Leader
Birthdate: 0000 BC

Abraham is an important historical character, considered one of the fathers of the human race by the Abrahamic religions, including Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Abrahamic religions believe that Abraham was in contact with God; his story and life events have inspired several important paintings, sculptures, works of literature, and music.

 10 Saint Peter

Saint Peter
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Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: 0001 AD
Nationality: Ancient Roman
Died: 0068 AD

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.

 11 Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick
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Famous As: Missionary
Birthdate: 0385 AD
Nationality: Romanian, Northern Irish
Died: March 17, 0461

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.

 12 St. Augustine

St. Augustine
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: November 13, 0354
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: Ancient Roman
Died: August 28, 0430

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.

 13 Mary, Mother of Jesus

Mary, Mother of Jesus
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Famous As: Mother of Jesus
Birthdate: September 8, 0018
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: Israeli

 14 John The Baptist

John The Baptist
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Famous As: Jewish Preacher
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Nationality: Israeli

John the Baptist was a 1st century AD Jewish preacher. The Gospels mention John as the forerunner of Jesus, as John announces Jesus's arrival and Jesus describes him as “Elijah who is to come.” It is also believed that John had baptized Jesus. John was eventually beheaded by Herod Antipas.

 15 Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas
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Famous As: Christian Saint
Birthdate: March 15, 0270
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: Greek, Turkish
Died: December 6, 0343
Fourth-century Greek Christian bishop Saint Nicholas gave rise to the legend of "Santa Claus," associated with the tradition of gifting during Christmas. One legend states that he saved three girls from prostitution and dropped sacks of gold coins through their window to help their father pay for their dowry.

 16 Martin Luther

Martin Luther
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Famous As: Father of Protestantism and Church Reformer
Birthdate: November 10, 1483
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: German
Died: February 18, 1546

German monk Martin Luther challenged the dogmas of Roman Catholicism and the authority of the pope, in his Ninety-five Theses, and was thus excommunicated. His German translation of the Bible enriched the German culture, and his marriage set an example for clerical marriage. His teachings are now known as Lutherans.

 17 Thomas More

Thomas More
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Famous As: Catholic Saint
Birthdate: February 7, 1478
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: British
Died: July 6, 1535
Lawyer, philosopher, and poet Thomas More, author of Utopia, had served as the British Lord Chancellor for 3 years. He opposed Henry VIII's separation from the Catholic Church and refused to take the Oath of Supremacy. He was thus beheaded for treason. Pope Pius XI later declared him a martyr.

 18 Jacob

Jacob
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Famous As: Religious leader
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Nationality: Syrian

 19 St Francis of Assisi

St Francis of Assisi
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Famous As: Founder of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans)
Birthdate: November 26, 1182
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: Italian
Died: October 3, 1226

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.

 20 Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama
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Famous As: Spiritual Leader of Tibet
Birthdate: July 6, 1935
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: Tibetan
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is known for his advocacy for peace in Tibet and has won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize. He belongs to a lineage of reincarnations of Avalokiteśvara. He fled to India during the 1959 Tibetan Rebellion and formed a Tibetan government in exile.

 21 Guru Nanak

Guru Nanak
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Famous As: Sikh Guru
Birthdate: April 15, 1469
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: Indian
Died: September 22, 1539

Guru Nanak was the founder of one of the most popular monotheistic religions of the Indian subcontinent, Sikhism. Widely regarded as the first of the ten Sikh Gurus, Nanak contributed 974 hymns to the religion's sacred scripture Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Nanak is worshipped by Sikhs around the world and his birth is celebrated as Guru Nanak Gurpurab.

 22 Saint Valentine

Saint Valentine
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Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: 0226 AD
Nationality: Italian
Died: February 14, 0269

 23 Ali Khamenei

Ali Khamenei
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Famous As: Supreme Leader of Iran
Birthdate: July 17, 1939
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: Iranian
Ali Khamenei has been serving as the supreme leader of Iran since 1989 and has previously been its president. He is one of the co-founders of the Islamic Republic Party and led his country during the Iran–Iraq War. His reign has also seen extreme treatment of journalists and protestors.

 24 Guru Gobind Singh

Guru Gobind Singh
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Famous As: Warrior
Birthdate: December 22, 1666
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: Indian
Died: October 7, 1708
Guru Gobind Singh, the son of Guru Tegh Bahadur, became the 10th guru, or spiritual leader, of the Sikhs after his father was killed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. He established the concept of the “Five Ks” of Sikhs and formed the Khalsa community. He also finalized the Guru Granth Sahib.

 25 Kabir

Kabir
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Famous As: Saint and Mystic Poet
Birthdate: 1440 AD
Nationality: Indian
Died: 1518 AD

Kabir was an Indian saint and mystic poet whose works influenced Hinduism's Bhakti movement, which in turn played a key role in the formation of Sikhism, the fifth-largest organized religion in the world. Kabir is an important figure in both Hinduism and Islam and his legacy continues to live through a religious community known as the Kabir panth.

 26 Nimrod

Nimrod
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Famous As: Biblical Figure
Birthdate: 0000 BC
Nationality: Iraqi
Nimrod appears in the Bible as a ruler of Shinar, or Mesopotamia. Genesis and the Books of Chronicles state he was the son of Cush. Some sources link him to the Towel of Babel. He has been identified with countless real and mythical figures, such as the Mesopotamian god Ninurta.

 27 Saint George

Saint George
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Famous As: Christian martyr
Birthdate: 0280 AD
Nationality: Greek, Israeli
Died: April 23, 0303

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.

 28 Jiddu Krishnamurti

Jiddu Krishnamurti
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Famous As: Public Speaker & Philosopher
Birthdate: May 12, 1895
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: Indian
Died: February 17, 1986

Jiddu Krishnamurti was an Indian philosopher, speaker, and writer. Many years after his death, Krishnamurti's supporters oversee several schools based on his views and ideas. The Krishnamurti Foundation runs several schools in India and foreign countries. Among those who were influenced by his works were Toni Packer, Dada Dharmadhikari, and Achyut Patwardhan.

 29 Samson

Samson
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Famous As: Judge
Birthdate: 0000 BC
Nationality: Israeli

 30 Elijah

Elijah
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Famous As: Prophet
Birthdate: 0900 BC
Nationality: Jordanian
Died: 0849 BC
9th-century B.C. prophet Elijah was from the northern kingdom of Israel and lived during King Ahab’s rule. He appears not just in the Bible, but also in the Quran, the Talmud, and several other religious texts. According to Kings, he defended the worship of Yahweh over the Canaanite god Baal. 

 31 Adi Shankara

Adi Shankara
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Famous As: Advaita Philosopher
Birthdate: 0788 AD
Nationality: Indian
Died: 0820 AD
Indian philosopher and theologian Adi Shankaracharya, or Adi Shankara, promoted the Hindu philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. His Sanskrit works talk about concepts such as the Ātman and Nirguna Brahman. He criticized the Mīmāṃsā school and explained the differences between Hinduism and Buddhism. He also established four "mathas," or monasteries.

 32 Aga Khan IV

Aga Khan IV
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Famous As: Imam of Nizari Ismailism
Birthdate: December 13, 1936
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: British

Aga Khan IV is the current Imam of Nizari Ismailism. Serving as the imam since 1957, Aga Khan claims to be a direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Apart from being the current leader of the Institution of the Imamate, Aga Khan is also a business magnate and one of the world's richest royals, according to Forbes.

 33 Ramdev

Ramdev
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Famous As: Yoga Guru
Birthdate: December 25, 1965
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: Indian

 34 Abu Bakr

Abu Bakr
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Famous As: Companion of Muhammad
Birthdate: October 27, 0573
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: Saudi Arabian
Died: August 23, 0634

Abu Bakr was a companion and father-in-law of the founder of Islam, Muhammad. After Muhammad's death, Bakr played an important role in leading the Muslims as the first Rashidun Caliph. Under Abu Bakr’s leadership, the Muslim state expanded over the entire Arabian peninsula. Abu Bakr's work during his reign eventually led to the Muslim conquests of the Levant and Persia.

 35 Brigham Young

Brigham Young
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Famous As: Second President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Birthdate: June 1, 1801
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American
Died: August 29, 1877
Brigham Young, known as the "American Moses," was the second president of the LDS Church. He founded Salt Lake City, was the first governor of the Utah Territory, and led to the formation of the University of Utah and Brigham Young University. He was a polygamist who had 55 wives.

 36 Arlyn Phoenix

Arlyn Phoenix
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Birthdate: December 31, 1944
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American

 37 John Calvin

John Calvin
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Famous As: Protestant Reformer, Theologian, Pastor
Birthdate: July 10, 1509
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: French
Died: May 27, 1564

French theologian, pastor, and reformer John Calvin was a major figure during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. He was influential in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church to embrace Protestantism. As an apologetic writer, he generated much controversy.

 38 Husayn ibn Ali

Husayn ibn Ali
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Famous As: Imam
Birthdate: December 31, 0626
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: Saudi Arabian
Died: September 30, 0680

 39 Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart Tolle
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Famous As: Spiritual Speaker & Author
Birthdate: February 16, 1948
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: German
Spiritual and self-help writer Eckhart Tolle is best known for his bestselling books The Power of Now and A New Earth. He collaborated with Oprah Winfrey, appearing in 10 live webinars and was also named to Oprah’s SuperSoul 100. He also launched Eckhart Teachings and the website Eckhart Tolle TV.

 40 Mahavira

Mahavira
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Famous As: Last tirthankara of Jainism
Birthdate: 0599 BC
Nationality: Indian
Died: 0527 BC
Mahavira, or Vardhamana, was the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism. Ancient texts suggest that he was a contemporary of Buddha. Mahavira renounced all worldly possessions at age 30. Following a long life of austerity, he attained Kevala Gyan and Moksha. His teachings came to be known as the Jain Agamas.

 41 Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket
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Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: December 21, 1118
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: British
Died: December 29, 1170
Thomas Becket, also known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury or Thomas of London, served as the archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until 1170. He is known for his conflict with King Henry II of England, regarding the powers of the Church, following which he was killed by the king’s followers.

 42 Thich Quang Duc

Thich Quang Duc
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Famous As: Vietnamese monk
Birthdate: 1897 AD
Nationality: Vietnamese
Died: June 11, 1963

 43 Ramakrishna Paramhamsa

Ramakrishna Paramhamsa
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Famous As: Spiritual & Religious Leader
Birthdate: February 18, 1836
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: Indian
Died: August 16, 1886

The widely revered Hindu religious leader and saint who had a large following was known for promoting the ancient Indian philosophy of Advaita Vedanta and Bhakti. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was a devotee of Goddess Kali who he worshipped as the universal mother. His marriage to Sharada Devi was never consummated. Swami Vivekanada was the most famous disciple of the Bengal-born mystic.

 44 Pope John Paul I

Pope John Paul I
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Famous As: Pope of Roman Catholic Church
Birthdate: October 17, 1912
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: Italian
Died: September 28, 1978
Pope John Paul I, also known as The Smiling Pope and The September Pope, was the shortest-reigning Pope and died 33 days after being made the Pope. He was the first Pope to choose a double name, including the names of his predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI.

 45 Zoroaster

Zoroaster
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Famous As: Founder of Zoroastrianism
Birthdate: 0000 BC
Nationality: Iranian
Zoroaster, also known as Zarathustra, was an Iranian spiritual leader who founded the religion Zoroastrianism, which challenged the traditional religious ideas of Ancient Persia. There is no record that states the exact period of his existence with certainty. He is said to have authored the Gathas and the Yasna Haptanghaiti.

 46 Zarathustra

Zarathustra
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Famous As: Prophet
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Nationality: Iranian

 47 Jude the Apostle

Jude the Apostle
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Famous As: Apostle
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Nationality: Ancient Roman

 48 Enoch

Enoch
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Famous As: Prophet
Birthdate: 3139 BC
Died: 2774 BC

 49 Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
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Famous As: Founder of Transcendental Meditation Technique
Birthdate: January 12, 1918
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: Indian
Died: February 5, 2008

Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is best remembered for pioneering the concept of Transcendental Meditation. A disciple of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, he started the TM-Sidhi program, founded the Natural Law Party, and launched the non-profit Global Country of World Peace. He also set up TM teaching centers worldwide.

 50 Saint Christopher

Saint Christopher
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Famous As: Patron Saint of Travellers
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Nationality: Ancient Roman
Died: 0251 AD

Saint Christopher is often regarded by the Christians as the patron saint of travelers. He is venerated as a martyr killed during the reign of the Roman Emperor Decius. Over the years, the legend associated with Saint Christopher has been mentioned in several works of art, including literature, music, paintings, and films.

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