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For Sale: Severed Head of the 'Saint of Genital Disease'

On May 29, a decapitated head said to be that of Saint Vitalis of Assisi, the patron saint of genital disease, will be sold at an auction in Ireland. The 600-year-old head was stored away for years in an outhouse before its owners decided to sell it.

There are several saints with the name Vitalis, but Saint Vitalis of Assisi is a patron against sicknesses and diseases that affect the genitals . An Italian monk and hermit, Saint Vitalis' early life in Umbria, Italy, was marked by decadence and depravity.

To atone for his sins, Vitalis went on pilgrimages to various sanctuaries in Italy and the rest of Europe. When he returned to Italy, he became a Benedictine monk at a monastery in the town of Subiaco. He later became a hermit and lived in poverty in Santa Maria di Viole, near Assisi, Italy, until his death in 1370.

It remains unknown exactly how Vitalis' head, which is believed to have been decapitated after his natural death , found its way to Ireland. The head's current owners, a family in Co Louth, Ireland, believe that it was brought to Ireland by an Anglo-Irish couple who had acquired it during a tour of Europe during the 19th century. [10 Weird Things People Do Every Day, and Why ]

The head will be sold by auctioneer Damien Matthews during an auction at the Annesbrook House in Co Meath, Ireland, on May 29.

The current owners originally displayed the skull in an ornate glass case in their entrance hall, but after having children, they moved it to an old outhouse, where it remained hidden away "for many years," according to the Sunday Independent, an Irish newspaper.

"That's where I came across it," Matthews told the Sunday Independent. "It is strange and it is macabre but it is a very interesting object."

For the auction, the head's guide price has was set between approximately $1,100 and $1,700.

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Live Science Staff
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