PATRON, a word of which the various meanings in European languages are derived and transferred from that of the Lat. patronus, whose position in Roman law and antiquities is treated below (Patron and Client). The most general application of the word in these transferred senses is that of an influential supporter or protector. The earliest use of the word in English appears to have been in the special ecclesiastical sense of the holder of an advowson, the right of presentation to a benefice. From this meaning is deduced that of the person in whom lies the right of presenting to public offices, privileges, &c., still surviving in the title of the Patronage Secretary of the Treasury in Great Britain. From the earliest Christian times the saints took the place of the pagan tutelary deities (Di tutelares) and were in this capacity called tutelares or patroni, patron-saints. To them churches and other sacred buildings are dedicated, and they are regarded as the protectors and guardians of countries, towns, professions, trades and the like. Further, a person may have a patron-saint, usually the one on or near whose festival he has been born, or whose name has been taken in baptism.
A full list of saints, with the objects of the peculiar patronage of each, is given in M. E. C. Walcott's Sacred Archaeology (1868).