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QUICK-CHANGE ARTISTS: Zeus into a swan (for love of Leda); Lot's wife to a pillar of salt (curiosity); Saul to Paul on the road to Damascus; Malcolm Muggeridge from rationalist atheist to Catholic; John Lennon to Krishna devotee and back in 12 months (Maharishi seemed over-interested in Mia Farrow); Clark Kent to Superman (but only in a telephone box); amphibians to aristos in every girl's dreams; water into wine (how?); Elizabeth Taylor into Cleopatra in the most costume changes made in any film (why?); Mussolini from rabid socialist to Fascist; Mrs Jean-Marie Le Pen from virtuous femme au foyer to nude model with feather duster; Bob Dylan from folkie to Happy Clappy born-again Christian to Orthodox Jew; Woodrow Wyatt from Labour's pet millionaire to reactionary Voice of Reason; Rupert Murdoch into Labour supporter (Gotcha]]]).

TODAY is the feast day of Saint Marcellus, Bishop of Apamaea in the 4th century. Even the 18th-century hagiographer of the saints, Alban Butler, says of Marcellus that 'because of his aggressive behaviour, Marcellus is hardly entitled to the honours of a martyr'. None the less he was venerated for his great skill in demolishing pagan temples. He employed the far from miraculous system of killing the protectors, replacing stone foundations with timber, and then setting light to the timber. After one such raid on a pagan temple, he and his sons (not a celibate bishop, then) retired to a hill to watch the fire and subsequent collapse of the structure, but he was caught by pagans and thrown in the fire.

14 August, 1778: Augustus Montague Toplady (above), English Anglican divine and hymn-writer died. He wrote 'Rock of Ages' while sheltering in a cracked rock during a storm. A Calvinist who engaged in ferocious debate with Charles Wesley, he was born in Farnham, Surrey, in 1740 and educated at Westminster and Trinity College, Dublin. Ordained in 1762, he became minister at the French Calvinist Chapel in London in 1775. In 1776 in Gospel magazine he claimed that the average individual committed 2,522,880,000 sins during a lifetime, which in Toplady's case would have been two a second.

1880: Cologne cathedral, started in 1248, was completed.

1945:Japan surrendered to the Allies.

1984: J B Priestley, writer, died.

BIRTHDAYS: Fred Davis, snooker player, 81; Buddy Greco, jazz musician, 68; Frederic Raphael, novelist, 63.

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