Conchita Wurst draws many to look-alike Saint Wilgefortis
An Austrian museum has unexpectedly benefitted from Eurovision 2014 champion Conchita Wurst’s win all thanks to an obscure saint.
The 14th century martyr Saint Wilgefortis has suddenly been thrust into tourism spotlight for her similarity in appearance to Wurst. Paintings and statues of the lady saint often depict her wearing a full beard:
Director Toni Kurz of the Museum of Horn in Lower Austria said ‘We have had the relics including the statue and information about the saint for some time but now it’s become a massive attraction.’
To accommodate the boost in visitors, the museum updated the exhibition and even added information and pictures of the saint’s look-alike, Conchita Wurst. ‘The exhibition is expected to end this October but if we keep getting this many visitors we might go on for longer.’
Saint Wilgefortis, which means ‘holy face’ in the Old German language, is known by many names: Uncumber in England, Ontkommer (‘escaper’) in Dutch, Kümmernis (‘grief’) in German, Liberata in Italy and Librada in Spain (both meaning ‘liberated’) and Débarras (‘riddance’) in France.
Saint Wilgefortis is known as the patron of relief from tribulations, in particular, for women who want to be freed from abusive husbands. Her feast day is on 20 July.
Like Conchita Wurst’s continuing fight against discrimination after her Eurovision win, Saint Wilgefortis also fought against being dominated. According to myths, when Wilgefortis was a teen her father the king promised her hand in marriage to a pagan king.
Against her father’s wishes, Wilgefortis, who was secretly a Christian, refused the union and took a vow of virginity. Her beard grew after she prayed to look repulsive so as not to be accepted. The plan worked and the pagan king cancelled the wedding. However, this angered her father the king.
As punishment, the king had Wilgefortis crucified. Her name is listed in the Catholic list of saints and she had been venerated until the 16th century.
Director Kurz commented ‘I’m hoping as well that Conchita Wurst might make a visit. Who knows, we might even take the exhibition on tour.’