Lives of the Improbable Saints

From St Fillan of Munster, patron saint of the mentally ill, who read by the light of his miraculously glowing arm, to Santa Lucia, who tore out her eyes to dismiss the lascivious attentions of her would-be husband, a new book is offering amusing and bemusing insights into the miscellany of Christian saints throughout the ages.

Which saintly infant struggled from the womb saying, ‘I am a Christian’ three times? Which French saint annoyed a dragon so much by dancing around in front of it that it eventually strangled itself? Whose river-bank preaching in Italy was so persuasive that the fish rose to the surface and tried to join in the hymns? Which saintly virgin gives her name to a particularly testing bend of the Monaco Grand Prix circuit? And whose saintly British remains are hidden in a location so secret that it is only known by 12 monks who whisper the secret to a chosen successor on their deathbed?

You will be able to find the answer to all of these questions in Lives of the Improbable Saints, the new book by Radio 4 presenter and former The Communards member, Richard Coles.

He sheds light on some of the lesser known saints from around the world spanning the first to 20th century.

As he uncovered more about these fascinating figures, he took to his Facebook and Twitter pages to share his discoveries.

To his surprise, he was not alone in his curiosity over the saints, and his musings sparked a considerable amount of interest among his followers.

The stories of nearly 200 saints are summarised in the book, accompanied by witty illustrations from Ted Harrison.

They include the patron saint of finding a parking space and a patron saint of horse vets.

Richard says he was drawn to "not the A list saints, but the Bs, Cs and beyond".

"Stories of such strangeness, comedy, cruelty and surprise that I found them quite fascinating," he adds.