Saints and Holy People

Find out about their lives and how they changed the world

Saint Camillus de Lellis (1550–1614)

Saint Camillus de Lellis (1550–1614)

Patron saint of nurses and patients

Feast day: July 18

Saint Camillus of Lellis was born in Italy and grew up to be a big, burly man. He was “hasty of temper” and such a ferocious and bad gambler that he eventually lost everything he owned and had to go to work digging ditches and building houses.

From age 17 to age 25, he was a soldier. He converted to a life of service to the sick after hearing a sermon, perhaps preached by Saint Philip Neri, who became his spiritual director. Camillus, who limped all his life because of a bad leg, found work in a hospital in Rome. At the hospital, he rose to be a bursar, or bookkeeper, and finally found his niche in nursing, for he saw how badly patients were treated by the nursing staffs of the time.

By the year 1600, when he was 50 years old, he had founded an order of priests and lay brothers called the Servants of the Sick. He established the first mobile nursing unit that was sent to troops in the field, and he insisted on open windows and decent food for patients as means of improvement.

He died in 1614, still big and burly but no longer hasty of temper. The community he founded, now called the Order of St. Camillus, or Camillians, is active in forty-two countries around the world, including the United States. The priests and brothers sponsor hospitals and educational facilities, care for the sick, and serve as hospital chaplains.

(Image in public domain-70)