When Christians were being persecuted by the Emperor Diocletian, Saint Erasmus took refuge on Mount Lebanon, living alone on what ravens brought him.
Captured by his enemies, he was brought before Diocletian and beaten with clubs weighted with lead and with whips. When it was perceived that he was still alive, the saint was rolled in tar and set alight; but still he survived. Thrown into prison with the intention of letting him die of starvation, Erasmus managed to escape.
He was recaptured in the Roman province of Illyricum, after boldly preaching and converting numerous pagans to the Christian way. This time his tortures included being forced to sit in a heated iron chair. Finally he was killed, about the year 303, when his stomach was cut open and his intestines were wound around a windlass.
Since sailors use a windlass to wind up the anchor of their ships, Erasmus became the patron saint of seafarers. Sometimes after a storm blue electrical discharges appear at a ship's masthead, and this is still known as 'St Elmo's fire'.
From A Calendar of Saints -
The Lives of the Principal Saints of the Christian Year
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