The severed head of the patron saint of genital diseases is to be sold at auction in County Meath next weekend.

The decapitated head of St Vitalis of Assisi has been in the possession of an Anglo-Irish family at Annesbrook House in Duleek for years now.

The macabre object is housed in a Queen Anne case and has been on display in the hallway of the Meath house – removed only when young children visit.

It is to be sold at an auction of the house’s contents next Sunday with a guideline price of between $1200 and $1800.

Saint Vitalis of Assisi was an Italian hermit and monk who died in 1370 and became a saint despite an early life marked by licentiousness and immorality.

In a bid to atone for his earlier sins,  he went on pilgrimages to various sanctuaries and eventually became a Benedictine monk and later lived as a hermit, living in utter poverty near Assisi.

After his death he became known as a patron against sicknesses and diseases affecting the genitals.

Auctioneer Damien Matthews is responsible for selling the head which, it is believed, arrived in Ireland in the late 19th century.

“It is strange and it is macabre but it is very interesting object,” Matthews told the Sunday Independent.