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St. Eligius


Eligius (Fr. Eloi), Saint, Bishop of Noyon-Tournai, b. at Chaptelat near Limoges, France, c. 590, of Roman parents, Eucherius and Terrigia; d. at Noyon, December 1, 660. His father, recognizing unusual talent in his son, sent him to the noted goldsmith Abbo, master of the mint at Limoges. Later Eligius went to Neustria, where he worked under Babo, the royal treasurer, on whose recommendation Clotaire II commissioned him to make a throne of gold adorned with precious stones. His honesty in this so pleased the king that he appointed him master of the mint at Marseilles, besides taking him into his household. After the death of Clotaire (629), Dagobert appointed his father's friend his chief councillor. The fame of Eligius spread rapidly, and ambassadors first paid their respects to him before going to the king. His success in inducing the Breton King, Judicail, to submit to Frankish authority (636-37) increased his influence. Eligius took advantage of this to obtain alms for the poor and to ransom Roman, Gallic, Breton, Saxon, and Moorish captives, who were arriving daily at Marseilles. He founded several monasteries, and with the king's consent sent his servants through towns and villages to take down the bodies of malefactors who had been executed, and give them decent burial. Eligius was a source of edification at court, where he and his friend Dado (Audoenus) lived according to the Irish monastic rule, introduced into Gaul by St. Columbanus. Eligius introduced this rule, either entirely or in part, into the monastery of Solignac which he founded in 632, and into the convent at Paris where three hundred virgins were under the guidance of the Abbess Aurea. He also built the basilica of St. Paul, and restored that of St. Martial in Paris. He erected several fine churches in honor of the relics of St. Martin of Tours, the national saint of the Franks, and St. Denis, who was chosen patron saint by the king. On the death of Dagobert (639), Queen Nanthilde took the reins of government, and Eligius and Dado left the court and entered the priesthood. On the death of Acarius, Bishop of Noyon-Tournai, May 13, 640, Eligius was made his successor with the unanimous approbation of clergy and people. The inhabitants of his diocese were pagans for the most part. He undertook the conversion of the Flemings, Antwerpians, Frisians, Suevi, and the barbarian tribes along the coast. In 654 he approved the famous privilege granted to the Abbey of Saint-Denis, Paris, exempting it from the jurisdiction of the ordinary. In his own episcopal city of Noyon he built and endowed a monastery for virgins. After the finding of the body of St. Quentin, Bishop Eligius erected in his honor a church to which was joined a monastery under the Irish rule. He also discovered the bodies of St. Piatus and companions, and in 654 removed the remains of St. Fursey, the celebrated Irish missionary (d. 650). Eligius was buried at Noyon. There is in existence a sermon written by Eligius, in which he combats the pagan practices of his time, a homily on the last judgment, also a letter written in 645, in which he begs for the prayers of Bishop Desiderius of Cahors. The fourteen other homilies attributed to him are of doubtful authenticity. His homilies have been edited by Krusch in "Mon. Germ. Hist." (loc. cit. infra).

St. Eligius is particularly honored in Flanders, in the province of Antwerp, and at Tournai, Courtrai of Ghent, Bruges, and Douai. During the Middle Ages his relics were the object of special veneration, and were often transferred to other resting-places, thus in 881, 1066, 1137, 1255, and 1306. He is the patron of goldsmiths, blacksmiths, and all workers in metal. Cabmen have also put themselves under his protection. He is generally represented in Christian art in the garb of a bishop, a crosier in his right hand, on the open palm of his left a miniature church of chased gold.

L. VAN DER ESSEN








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