Roger writing the LAWmag
Dec 2009

Saint Lawyer: Lawyers Who Were Sainted

Yeah, yeah.

We can hear the hecklers already.

And yet we, at, are the last ones to cherish vestiges of old boy's clubs. See what we wrote about Queen's Counsel and we never adopt the British habit of referring to their judges as "Lords". To us they're just Justice so-and-so.

But saints?

Saint LawyerNow there's an appointment, complete with a formal perpetual feast day!

Including the patron saint of lawyers, a civil law lawyer himself (France), St. Ives, there have been ten lawyers beatified (and for some, full sainthood), by the Roman Catholic Popes over the years.

One, Benedetto Odescalchi, became Pope in Innocent XI in 1676. But Innocent the 11th was never made a saint although he was finally beatified in 1956.

Caveat emptor: for the record, in case anybody is taking notes over at the Vatican, the author is presently chair of a church board (Fairfield United Church)?!

In addition to St. Ives and Innocent XI, here is the ultimate and, sadly, all-male Christian lawyer roll of honour, saintly lawyers:

Saint Germanus of Auxerre

Also known as St. Germain, he was born in France in about 380. He studied and practised what historians call civil law but what would more likely be Roman law. As an up-and-coming young lawyer, Germain enjoyed a life of wealth until an event occurred which is best related as-is by the Catholic Enclyclopedia:

"He resided at Auxerre and gave himself up to all the enjoyments that naturally fell to his lot. At length he incurred the displeasure of the bishop, St. Amator. It appears that Germain was accustomed to hang the trophies of the chase on a certain tree, which in earlier times had been the scene of pagan worship. Amator remonstrated with him in vain. One day when the duke was absent, the bishop had the tree cut down and the trophies burnt. Fearing the anger of the duke, who wished to kill him, he fled and appealed to the prefect Julius for permission to confer the tonsure on Germain. This being granted, Amator, who felt that his own life was drawing to a close, returned. When the duke came to the church, Amator caused the doors to be barred and gave him the tonsure against his will, telling him to live as one destined to be his successor, and forthwith made him a deacon. A wonderful change was instantly wrought in Germain, and he accepted everything that had happened as the Divine will."

When Amator died, Germain was ordained Bishop of Auxerre, France. He was sent to Britain on several occasions to quell uprising of heretics. He started the process of building a cathedral in Auxerre. Germain died on July 31, 448 at Ravenna, Italy.

Saint Castor of Apt

Born in Nîmes, France, date uncertain. He started his life as a lawyer but married a religious woman and together, they made the transition to an austere, religious life. Castor founded a monastery at Manauque, France, and for that work of charity, was named Bishop of Apt, France. He died in about 420. His feast day is September 2. His relics are still preserved at the Apt Cathedral, in France

Saint Salvius of Albi

Salvius was born in Albi, France where he trained as a lawyer and served as a judge. He then abandoned his legal career and entered a monastery just outside of Albi where he was a recluse even from his fellow monks. But in 574, he was appointed Bishop of Albi, France against his will and yet took the position. When the plague hit Albi hard in 584, Bishop Salvius refused advice to stay in the monastery until the epidemic had blown over and instead, wandered the town to help the sick. According to Butler's Lives of the Saints, when inevitably he fell ill himself, he ordered his coffin, put on a death shroud and was ready for death when it came on September 10, 584.

Saint Thomas Becket

Born in 1118 in England, he studied civil law and canon law in France in about 1150. He became a favorite of Henry II. Becket was known to have acted as a circuit judge for the king in 1153 and soon was Chancellor (chief justice). In 1162, apprehensive of the consequences upon his relationship with Henry II, he nonetheless accepted the position of Bishop of Canterbury, England, while keeping his law political position as chancellor. Becket took to his job with a vengeance, and soon resigned as chancellor and opposed a tax demanded by Henry. As the dispute became public, Henry's followers began a series of legal cases against Becket including a charge of high treason in 1163. The king's followers obtained extravagant money judgments against Becket and tried to enforce their judgments. Becket fled to France and took counsel with the Pope, then at Sens, France. Becket returned to England with papers that sought to excommunicate four bishops that had supported Henry's demands. On December 20, 1170, Becket was assassinated. He was quickly canonized in 1173 by Pope Alexander III.

Blessed Peter de Geremia

Born in 1399 in Sicily, Italy, Peter de Geremia had his law degree from the prestigious University of Bologna well in hand, and a blossoming law practise when, according to a summary published by St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Washington, D.C.:

"Having retired one night, he was pleasantly dreaming ... when he heard a knock at the window. As his room was on the third floor, and there was nothing for a human to stand on outside his window, he sat up, in understandable fright, and asked who was there. Charles BorromeoA hollow voice responded that he was a relative who had just died, a successful lawyer who had wanted human praise so badly that he had lied to win it, and now was eternally lost because of his pride. Peter ... began praying seriously to know his vocation.... God made known to him that he should enter the Dominican Order. He did so as soon as possible. His new choice of vocation was a bitter blow to his father, who had gloried in his son's achievements, hoping to see him become the most famous lawyer in Europe."

De Geremia's father was Arduin, lawyer to King Alfonso I.  De Geremia took priestly vows immediately and to purge himself of his sins, he wrapped an iron chain around his torso. He became known for alleged miracles such as stopping the eruption of Mount Etna by merely pointing  religious relic at it. When he died in Sicily, in 1452, a ghastly secret was uncovered. The chain was still wound around his body and the scars had grown over it such that it could not be removed. Peter de Geremia was beatified by Pope Pius VI in 1784.

Saint Charles Borromeo

Also known as Carlo; he was born in 1538 and at the age of 7, had been tonsured (the top of his head was shaved as a mark of being a monk). He obtained his law degree, both civil law and canon law, at the age of 21 (1559). Months later, his uncle was named Pope (Pius IV) and Charles was quickly the recipient of prestigious appointments. He never had either an inkling or an opportunity to practise law but his talents were put to god use when for two years, he labored to find a consensus in a divided church, resulting in the publication, in 1564, of the Benedistuc Deus. Borromeo, pictured, to the right, was appointed priest and then, in 1563, Bishop of Milan. During his tenure, he presided over the development of the Acts of the Church of Milan, an essential collection of texts on canon law and decisions. In 1578, while the plague ravaged Milan, he founded the Congregation of Oblates. He is considered a founder of modern Sunday Schools and was often seen teaching children about God and how to pray. Pictured, at right, he died on November 3, 1584 at the young age of 46. Charles Borromeo was beatified in 1602 by Pope Clement VIII and canonized in 1610 by Pope Paul V.

Blessed John Bodey

Born at Wells, Somerset, England in 1549. He was trained as a common law lawyer at New College, Oxford and later traveled to France to obtain a civil law degree when the new administration of the university took away his fellowship. In 1580, he refused to take the oath declaring Elizabeth I supreme over even the church. He was arrested as a Papist and held in leg irons. In 1583, he was convicted of "maintaining the old religion and denying the Royal supremacy". Queen Elizabeth had him hung, drawn and quartered, a horrible death, at Andover on November 2, 1583; November 2 has become his formal feast day. He was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929.

Saint Gregoria Barbarigo

Also referred to as Gregorio and Gregory. Born in 1625 in Venice, Barbarigo was another who took a civil law and canon law degree and entered the priesthood upon graduation. In the Roman Catholic church, held the positions of Bishop of Bergamo, Italy, and of Padua, Italy. He is one of the authors of the Peace of Westphalia which ended the Thirty Year War which had enflamed the whole of Europe. Barbarigo was a voting member of the conclave of cardinals which elected his fellow lawyer the 240th pope, Innocent XI in 1676. Barbarigo died on July 18, 1697, was beatified in 1771 and canonized in 1960. The Gregorio Barbarigo Church in Rome was named after him.


  • Corbett's Complete Collection of State Trials, 9 Henry II, 1163.
  • Butler, A., Butler's Lives of the Saints (London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2000)
  • City of Auxerre website
  • Giussano, John Peter, The Life of St. Charles Borromeo (London: Burns and Oates, 1884), 2 volumes.
  • Paroisse St Côme et St Damien, Saint Castor: Mémoire de Saint Castor, Evêque d’Apt au IV siècle (2006)
  • Saint Gregory, "St. Salvious", printed in Life of the Fathers
  • St. Patrick Catholic Church Washington, D.C., website
  • The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910). Retrieved December 23, 2009 from
  • Williamson, C., Great Catholics (Bel Air, CA: Read Books, 2007).

Posted in Church Law, Legal History