TODAY is the feast day of Christina the Astonishing, born in Liege in 1150. Aged about 22, she had a cataleptic seizure and was carried to church in an open coffin for a requiem Mass. After the Agnus Dei, Christina sat up and soared to the rafters like a bird. Everyone fled from the church except her sister who, though frightened, stayed until the end of the Mass. After that Christina hurled herself all over the place, into rivers, up mountains, all, she said, to escape the smell of sinful humans. Uncatchable, she became a ragged and terrifying outcast. Eventually she calmed down enough to stay in the convent of St Catherine at Saint-Trond and died aged 74.
24 July, 1783: Simon Bolivar (above), liberator of five South American countries from Spanish rule, was born in Venezuela. He studied in Madrid and was in Paris as a child during the French Revolution. He joined the nationalists fighting for Venezuelan independence and had to flee to Colombia in 1812, where he joined forces with Colombian revolutionaries. From here he liberated Venezuela (1821); Colombia (1822); Ecuador (1822); Peru (1824); and finally Upper Peru, which in 1825 adopted the name Bolivia in his honour.
1851: Window tax was abolished in Britain.
1883: Captain Matthew Webb, cross-Channel swimmer, died.