Saint Philomena was a Catholic saint invented out of an ancient grave, the visions of a nun, and whole cloth.

On May 25, 1802, in the catacombs near Rome the skeleton of a fourteen year old girl was discovered. A small vial, thought to be of blood - at the time believed to be a traditional symbol of martyrdom, was found next to the skeleton. Three earthenware tiles spelled out a message:

"Lights and peace be with you"

The remains were entombed beneath the altar of a church in Mugnano, near Naples. In 1833, Sister Maria Luisa of Jesus had a series of visions of the unknown martyr. Based on these visions, the pastor of the church, Don Francesco De Lucia concocted a biography of the young woman. By rearranging the tiles, an alternative inscription is revealed:

"Peace be with you, Philomena"

Apparently, Philomena was a young virgin during the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian. The emperor wished to marry the youngster, but she refused, citing her vow of virginity. She was imprisoned and tortured and finally killed. As is the case with most martyrs, the first attempts to slay her failed, and she was finally beheaded. Inspired by this story, a shrine to her was constructed and she was added to the liturgical calendar by Pope Pius IX in 1855.

In 1961, after archaeological investigation, the Vatican decided that she hadn't existed after all. The vial was merely funeral perfumes, a common accompaniment for the dead in the catacombs. She was removed from the calendar and the shrine was ordered dismantled. At least it took them less time than it did with Galileo.

Some people, though, have yet to get the hint. The web is littered with sites dedicated to her, including many which claim the removal of Philomena from the calendar is the work of the devil.

Sources:The Catholic Encyclopedia; John Dollison, Pope-Pourri; various web shrines