In Cyclops (episode 12 of Ulysses) a religious procession descends on Barney Kiernan’s pub, including many saints: real ones like St Bernard and St Ita, as well as parody names like St Anonymous and St Eponymous.  The list of saints is followed by a list of saintly attributes like harps and swords, “babes in a bathtub” and “eyes on a dish”.

Amongst the list of attributes is “beards” which  Gifford comments “are the particular attributes of several young minor saints who obtained beards by prayer”.   But perhaps the most striking acquisition of a beard concerns St Wilgefortis who

…had been promised in marriage by her father to a pagan king. To thwart the unwanted wedding, she had taken a vow of virginity, and prayed that she would be made repulsive. In answer to her prayers she sprouted a beard, which ended the engagement. In anger, Wilgefortis’s father had her crucified.

In English Wilgefortis is also known as St Uncumber and St Ontcommer in Dutch.  This painting of St Ontcommer is in St Stevenskerk in Nijmegen in the Netherlands.


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