Giles, Monastic and Hermit, c. 710

An immensely popular saint in the Middle Ages, all that is known about Giles (Aegidius) is that he was born in the early seventh century and that he founded a monastery in Provence at the place later called Saint-Gilles, on land given him by Wamba, the Visigothic king of Hispania and Septimania.  Giles’ shrine became an important pilgrimage center on the routes for Compostella and for the Holy Land, as well as being a place for pilgrimage in its own right.

The tenth century legendary Life made Giles and Athenian by birth, who became a hermit near the mouth of the Rhône not far from Nimes, attracted to the area by the renown of Caesarius, bishop of Arles.  While in pursuit of a hind, King Wamba shot an arrow at the beast which wounded and crippled Giles, with whom the hind had taken refuge.  Another legend made an emperor seek forgiveness from Giles for a sin he did not dare confess.  At Mass the next day, Giles saw in a chart written by an angel the nature of the sin, the letters of which entry disappeared as Gile’s prayer were so efficacious.  Towards the end of his legendary life, he went to Rome and offered his monastery to the Pope, who gave him two doors of cypress wood which the saint threw into the sea but which were miraculously transported to a beach near his monastery.

From Provence (provincia sancti Aegidii) his veneration spread, partly through Crusaders, to other parts of Europe.  Based on the story of the hind and King Wamba, he became the patron of cripples, lepers, and nursing mothers.  The legend of the effectiveness of his intercessions contributed greatly to his popularity.  In England alone at least 24 hospitals and some 162 ancient churches were dedicated to him, most notably St Giles in Edinburgh and St Giles, Cripplegate, London.  His churches are often found at road junctions, which travelers could visit while their horses were being shod in in smithies nearby, of which Giles was also patron.

based on material from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints

The Collect

Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy.  We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

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