The name Cornielje, of wich there are many variations, goes back to the Roman noble family of the Cornelians. The meaning of the name is not entirely sure but for certain is that the Latin word 'Cornus' stands for 'Horn'. This is the reason that many scholars believe that the meaning of the name is 'powerful horn'.
The name became quite frequent during the Middle Ages because of the popularity of St. Cornelius. The name spread all over Western Europe and the Latin version of the name was adapted according to the respective language of
the country where it came in use.
Cornelius, son of Castinus Cornelio, was a Roman priest and became bishop of Rome in the year 251. When in the year 253 Gallus Ceasar started a new wave of violence against the Christians, he banned Cornelius to Centrum Cellae (now Civitavecchia) where he died.
The 'Legenda Aurea' describes the suffering of Cornelius because he refused to pray to Mars. He was beaten up with slabs of lead, so the legend goes. On his way to be judged and sentenced to death, he healed the wife of a Roman Centurion, both his wife as well as the Centurion converted to Christianity and were decapitated because of this. Cornelius' body was buried in the catacombs of the Callistus in Rome.
Cornelius' attribute, the horn, is actually the claw of a griffin. The griffin gave this claw to him as a gift, because Cornelius' prayers had healed him. Cornelius used this claw hence forward as a drinking cup, so the legend goes.
In the ancient 'Reichsabtei', nowadays called the 'Probsteikirche' in a suburb of Aachen, named 'Kornelimünster', several relics of Pope Cornelius are kept. Also Saint Corneille in Compiègne and Saint Severin in Cologne have relics of Cornelius. Cornelius is the patron of farmers, cows and is supposed to protect from epilepsy, cramps, ear problems and problems of the nervous system.
There is a legend in the Rheinland making Cornelius also to the patron of the lovers. It is said that once the Burgherr of Selikum - nowadays Neuss am Rhein - hired a young artist to decorate his Cornelius chapel. When the daughter of the Burgherr and the artist fell in love with each other and wanted to get married, the Burgherr was enraged and said that only if the Pope personally would come to bless their wedding he would give his permission. So it happened: the statue of Pope Cornelius bend down to the lovers and blessed them. The wedding was celebrated with holy wine!
The town of Kornelimünster still has in its' coat of arms a horn as a reference to Pope Cornelius.
An article on the origins of our name