TODAY is the feast day of Saint Porphyry, 4th-century monk of Macedonia. Crippled by illness, he travelled to Jerusalem to distribute his wealth to the poor and visit the holy places. At Calvary he had a vision that the thief, Dismas, crucified with Christ, came down from his cross and cured him, entrusting him with the care of the true Cross. He was made a bishop against his will and cried throughout the ceremony. He was so good that a statue of Venus destroyed itself when Porphyry walked past.
26 February 1802: Victor Hugo (above), author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables, was born in Besancon. His life spanned an age of turmoil for France, and through his verse, plays and novels he became a both a political figure and a national hero. By his early twenties he was a successful writer and figurehead of the French Romantics. In 1851, with the coup that ushered in the Second Empire, he fled abroad, settling in the Channel Islands, where he finished Les Miserables, the epic Parisian tale of Jean Valjean, who stole a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. Hugo did not return to France until after the Commune of 1871. He was driven not only by the operatic events of the times but by a tormented personal life. He died in 1885, by which time a Paris avenue had been named for him. Now every town has a street named after him.