St. Isidore the Laborer
15 May 2023
Isidore the Labourer, also known as Isidore the Farmer (Spanish: San Isidro Labrador) (c. 1070 – 15 May 1130), was a Spanish farmworker known for his piety toward the poor and animals. He is the Catholic patron saint of farmers, and of Madrid, El Gobernador, Jalisco and of La Ceiba, Honduras. His feast day is celebrated on 15 May.

The Spanish profession name labrador comes from the verb labrar ("to till", "to plow" or, in a broader sense, "to work the land"). Hence, to refer to him as simply a "laborer" is a poor translation of the Spanish labrador as it makes no reference to the essential farming aspect of his work and his identity. His real name was Isidro de Merlo y Quintana.
Isidore was born in Madrid, in about the year 1070 or 1082,of poor but very devout parents, and was christened Isidore from the name of their patron, St. Isidore of Seville. In 1083 or 1085, the troops of Alfonso VI of León and Castile conquered Madrid from the Muslim taifa of Toledo. Isidore spent his life as a hired hand in the service of the wealthy Madrilenian landowner Juan de Vargas on a farm in the city's vicinity. He shared what he had, even his meals, with the poor. Juan de Vargas would later make him bailiff of his entire estate of Lower Caramanca.

Isidore married Maria Torribia, known as Santa María de la Cabeza in Spain; she has never been canonized, pending confirmation by Pope Francis. Isidore and Maria had one son. On one occasion, their son fell into a deep well and, at the prayers of his parents, the water of the well is said to have risen miraculously to the level of the ground, bringing the child with it. In thanksgiving Isidore and Maria then vowed sexual abstinence and lived in separate houses. Their son later died in his youth.

Isidore died on 15 May 1130, at his birthplace close to Madrid, although the only official source places his death in the year 1172.
In 2022, a team from the Complutense University undertook a forensic study of the corpse. A coin with a lion was found in the throat. It was conjectured that it could date from the age of Henry IV of Castile. The only active illness found was dental abscesses. The researchers proposed them as cause of death. The age of death ranges between 35 and 45 years. The height was estimated between 167 and 186 cm. The cranium shows a predominance of African features.

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