Saint Giles

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Saint Giles (Latin Ăgidius) was a 7th-8th century Christian hermit saint.

Contents

Life

Giles first lived in retreats near the mouth of the Rh˘ne and by the River Gard, in today's southern France. (A noble Athenian parentage is probably an embellishment of his early hagiographers.)

Finally he withdrew deep into the forest near Nţmes, where in the greatest solitude he spent many years, his sole companion being a deer, or hind, who in some stories sustains him on its milk. This last retreat was finally discovered by the king's hunters, who had pursued the hind to its place of refuge. An arrow shot at the deer wounded the saint instead, who afterwards became a patron of cripples. The king, who by legend was an anachronistic Visigoth but who must have been a Frank due to the period, conceived a high esteem for the solitary hermit whose humility rejected all honors save some disciples, and built him a monastery in his valley, which he placed under the Benedictine rule. Here Giles died in the early part of the 8th century, with the highest repute for sanctity and miracles.

Memory

Around his tomb in the abbey sprang up the town of St-Gilles-du-Gard. His cult spread rapidly far and wide throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, as is witnessed by the numberless churches and monasteries dedicated to him in France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Great Britain; by the numerous manuscripts in prose and verse commemorating his virtues and miracles; and especially by the vast concourse of pilgrims who from all Europe flocked to his shrine.

He is the patron saint of Edinburgh, Scotland.

In 1562 the relics of the saint were secretly transferred to Toulouse to save them from the anger of the Huguenots and the level of pilgrimages declined. With the restoration of a great part of the relics to the church of St. Giles in 1862, and the publicized rediscovery of his former tomb there in 1865, the pilgrimages recommenced.

Besides the city of St-Gilles, which sprang up around the abbey, nineteen other cities bear his name. St-Gilles, Toulouse, and a multitude of French cities, Antwerp, Brugge, and Tournai in Belgium, Cologne and Bamberg, in Germany, Prague and Gran, Rome and Bologna in Italy, possess relics of St Giles.

In medieval art he is depicted with his symbol, the hind. His emblem is also an arrow, and he is the patron saint of cripples. Churches named after him include St Giles-without-Cripplegate in London and St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, while in Chalfont St Giles both church and village are named after him.

His feast day is September 1.

Other Saint Giles

He shares his feast day with another St Giles, an Italian hermit of the 10th century and a Blessed Giles, (d. about 1203) a Cistercian abbot of Castaneda in the Diocese of Astorga, Spain. Blessed Aegidius of Assisi is also known as Blessed Giles.

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