Saint Vitus (pronounced Vits) is the patron saint of dancers and of people with nerve afflictions. The nerve disease Saint Vitus Dance, or chorea, is named after him.
Unreliable legend has Vitus, the only son of a senator in Sicily, become a Christian when he was twelve. He was martyred with Modestus, his tutor, and Cresentia, his nurse, during the Diocletian persecution (303). For more on his life, read http://www.catholic.org/saints/saints/vitus.html and http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/saintv07.htm
He is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, a collective cult of saints that originated in the 14th-century Rhineland, believed to intercede effectively against various diseases. Vitus is invoked against diseases including epilipsy, nervous disorders, and St. Vitus' Dance (Sydenham's chorea). In Germany it was believed in the 16th century that good health for a year could be secured by anyone who danced before the statue of St. Vitus on his feast day. This dancing developed almost into a mania, and came to be confused with chorea, which was subsequently known as St. Vitus' dance, the saint being invoked against it. From this confusion comes his patronage of dancers. There is an interesting article in the Skeptical Inquirer about the mediaevel dancing mania.
There is a Saint Vitus Cathedral in Prague, the city of which he is the patron saint; see http://encarta.msn.com/find/Concise.asp?z=1&pg=2&ti=761580882
Saint Vitus' feast day is June 15.
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Last modified on: August 11, 2001.