Infobox Saint
name= Saint Lidwina of Schiedam
birth_date= 18 March 1380
death_date= 14 April 1433
feast_day= April 14
venerated_in= Roman Catholic Church

imagesize= 250px
caption= "Lidwina's fall on the Ice", Wood drawing from the 1498 edition of John Brugman's "Vita of Lidwina"
birth_place= Schiedam, the Netherlands
death_place= Schiedam, the Netherlands
canonized_date=cultus confirmed March 14, 1890
canonized_by=Leo XIII
patronage=chronically ill, ice skaters, town of Schiedam
major_shrine= Schiedam

Saint Lidwina (Lydwine, Lydwid, Lidwid, Liduina of Schiedam) (Schiedam, March 18 1380Schiedam, April 14 1433) was a Dutch saint. At age 14, Lidwina was ice skating when she fell and broke a rib. She never recovered and became progressively invalid for the rest of her life. Her biographers state that she became paralyzed except for her left hand and that great pieces of her body fell off, and that blood poured from her mouth, ears, and nose. Saint Lidwina is thought to be one of the first known multiple sclerosis patients and her fall and consequent disability are attributed to the effects of the disease. [Caroline Walker Bynum, "Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women" (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 124.]

Life and legend

After her fall, Lidwina fasted continuously and acquired fame as a healer and holy woman (although she was also looked upon as being under the influence of an evil spirit). [ [ Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Lidwina ] ] The town officials of Schiedam, her hometown, promulgated a document (which has survived) that attests to her complete lack of food and sleep. [Caroline Walker Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 124.] At first she ate a little piece of apple, then a bit of date and watered wine, then river water contaminated with salt from the tides. The authenticating document from Schiedam also attests that Lidwina shed skin, bones, parts of her intestines, which her parents kept in a vase and which gave off a sweet odor. These excited so much attention that Lidwina had her mother bury them. [Caroline Walker Bynum, "Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women" (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 125.]

It is also reported that four soldiers abused her during this occupation, claiming that Lidwina's swollen body was due to her being impregnated by the local priest rather than from her sickness. [Caroline Walker Bynum, "Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women" (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 124.]

She died at the age of 53.

Accounts of Lidwina's life

Several hagiographical accounts of her life exist. One of these states that while the soldiers of Philip of Burgundy were occupying Schiedam, a guard was set around her to test her fasts, which were authenticated. [Caroline Walker Bynum, "Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women" (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 124.]

The well-known Flemish preacher and poet father Johannes Brugman wrote two lives of St. Lidwina, the first of which, printed at Cologne in 1433, was reprinted anonymously at Louvain in 1448, and later epitomised by Thomas à Kempis at Cologne in his "Vita Lidewigis". The second life appeared at Schiedam in 1498; both have been embodied by the Bollandists in the Acta Sanctorum under 2 April. More recently, in 1901, Joris-Karl Huysmans published a biography of Lidwina.


Lidwina's grave became a place of pilgrimage after her death and in 1434, a chapel was built over it. Thomas à Kempis's publication caused an increase in veneration. In 1615 her relics were taken to Brussels, but in 1871 they were returned to Schiedam. On 14 March 1890, Leo XIII officially canonised Lidwina. She is the patron saint of ice skaters and the chronically ill, as well as the patron saint of the town of Schiedam. Her feast day occurs on 18 March, 14 April, or 14 June, depending on region and tradition.

In 1859 the Church of Our Lady of Visitation ("Onze Lieve Vrouw Visitatie") was opened on the Nieuwe Haven in Schiedam, commonly called "Frankelandsekerk" after the area it was located in (West-Frankeland). In 1931 this church was officially dedicated to St. Lidwina and called Church of Lidwina ("Lidwinakerk"). The church was demolished in 1969, and the veneration of Lidwina was moved to the "Singelkerk", hence known as Church of the Holy Lidwina and Our Lady of the Rosary. This church was elevated to become a basilica minor on 18 June 1990 by Pope John Paul II. The church is now commonly known as the Basilica of Lidwina.

After the closure of the Church of Lidwina in 1969, the statue of the saint and her relics were removed to the chapel dedicated to her in the rest-home West-Frankeland on the "Sint Liduinastraat" in town. Only after the demolition of the chapel in 1987 were all devotional objects removed to the "Singelkerk".

Lidwina's name is attached to numerous instititions in Schiedam. Since 2002, the Foundation "Intorno Ensemble" produces a bi-annual musical theatrical performance about the " town saint" in one of the Schiedam churches. Outside Schiedam, there is a modern (1960s) church in the Dutch town of Best carrying her name ("Lidwina Parochie Best").

t Lidwina and multiple sclerosis

Historical texts reveal that she was afflicted with a debilitating disease, sharing many characteristics with multiple sclerosis as were the age of onset, duration and course of disease. St Lidwina’s disease began soon after her fall. From that time onwards, she developed walking difficulties, headaches and violent pains in her teeth. By the age of 19, both her legs were paralysed and her vision was disturbed. Over the next 34 years, Lidwina's condition slowly deteriorated, although with apparent periods of remission, until her death at the age of 53. Together these factors suggest that a posthumous diagnosis of MS may be plausible, therefore dating MS back to the 14th century.cite journal |author=Medaer R |title=Does the history of multiple sclerosis go back as far as the 14th century? |journal=Acta Neurol. Scand. |volume=60 |issue=3 |pages=189–92 |year=1979 |pmid=390966 |doi=]




* "Saint Lydwine of Schiedam", by J.-K. Huysmans (translated by Ages Hastings), TAN Books and Publishers, Inc, 1923/79. ISBN 0-89555-087-3

External links

* en
* en
* nl
*Portrait in [ Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon] nl
* [ Lidwina naamdag 14 juni] nl
* [ Heilige Lidwina van Schiedam] nl
* [ Saint Lydwina of Schiedam (Patron Saint Index)] en

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