I first learned about this obscure, to me, saint when we visited Spain a couple years ago. In the Basque region, near my relatives' town, there is a cave containing prehistoric paintings – Santimamiñe Cave. These cave paintings date from about 13,000 BC and include a range of animals such as bison, horses, deer, goats and brown bears.
The cave's name comes from a nearby chapel of Santimamiñe, which in the Basque language means San Mamés or St. Mamas (also St. Mammes), to whom the chapel is dedicated. I had not heard of him before, but the guide shared that he was a 3rd century martyr, often pictured with a lion.
He was orphaned at a young age – his parents killed for being Christians. He was a shepherd who was known to preach to the animals in the fields. It is told that St. Mamas was tortured for his faith by the governor of Caesarea and was then sent before the Roman Emperor Aurelian, who tortured him again. An angel then freed him and ordered him to hide himself on a mountain near Caesarea. St. Mamas was later thrown to the lions, but managed to make the beasts docile. A lion is said to have remained with him as companion and protector. Accompanied by the lion, he visited Duke Alexander, who condemned him to death.
In Cyprus, there is the legend that he was a hermit and when soldiers were sent out and captured him, while on the way back to town, St. Mamas saw a lion attacking a lamb, escaped the soldiers, saved the lamb, jumped on the lion's back, and rode it into town. That is how he is often depicted in icons.
He is the patron of Langres; babies who are breastfeeding; protector of sufferers from broken bones and hernias.
Pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela brought his cult into Spain and he is more well known there. A statue depicting San Mamés and a lion can be found in the Casa de la Misericordia in Bilbao, which was once the convent of San Mamés and whose current chapel holds a relic of the saint. The stadium that is home to the Athletic Club de Bilbao is called San Mamés Stadium, and players of that club are called the "lions of San Mamés" because their stadium was built near there.
So his feast day (August 17) can be a time to learn a little more about a saint that might be new to your family, too. Since St. Mamas is closely associated in pictures with a lion it is a feast day idea. Additionally, it was a medieval belief that the lion slept with its eyes open. For this reason, they also became a symbol of watchfulness. I came across this lion themed recipe and thought it would be a fun, savory lunch idea for children to add the the other lion themed recipes on Catholic Cuisine. It is made from spiral noodles in a red sauce, surrounding a circle of colby jack cheese. Add olives for the eyes and nose, with cheese triangle ears and pepperoni strip whiskers. Who can resist a pasta lion?
Other saints who are depicted with a lion are St. Mark, St. Jerome, St. Mary of Egypt, St. Paul the Hermit, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Onuphrius, so this idea could be used at other feast days.Pin It