Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday 1 September 2023

St Giles and his shrine church

Today is the feast of St Giles, the seventh to eighth century abbot who founded the abbey of St Gilles in Provence and became noted as a patron of numerous medieval churches and of particular groups. Having been baptised in my home parish church dedicated to him and where I was to grow in faith St Giles is an important figure in my own spiritual journey.

Image of St. Giles

St Giles with his hind
Thomas of Koloswar circa 1420
A detail from the Garamzsentbenedek altar now in Budapest 

Image: catholic.org.

An Athenian who fled to Provence in search of solitude St Giles, living as a hermit, was inadvertently injured, and thus discovered by King Wamba, when the saint saved his hind from the king’s hunters. Made abbot of a monastery which eventually became his shrine his fame and cult spread under Cluniac influence and because the abbey was a focal point for pilgrims taking the Pilgrimage route to Santiago to Spain and northwards to France, England, Scotland, the Low Countries, Germany, Poland, Hungary and Italy. 

His legend and cult are set out by Wikipedia at Saint Giles

Wikipedia also has introductions to the town of St Gilles-du-Gard at Saint-Gilles, Gard and to the history and remains of the abbey church at Abbey of Saint-Gilles

Sadly, as a result of extensive destruction in 1562 during the Wars of Religion, all that remains of the great medieval church are the crypt with the relics of St Giles - returned in 1862 after three centuries in Toulouse - the ruins of the choir and the spectacular lower stage of the west front with its great and theatrical portals leading to the smaller church rebuilt in the seventeenth century.

There are pictures of the serviving features and more about the history of the church at Assassination and the Whip at Saint-Gilles-du-Gard

The west portals and their sculpture are also discussed at Romanesque façade of the abbey of Saint-Gilles du Gard

St Giles with his emblematic hind
From a Wallace Collection manuscript

Image: catholicexchange.org/ Fr Lawrence Lew O.P.

St Giles Pray for us

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh no, not another medieval abbey destroyed by over-zealous reformers. I'd like to go back in time, and pull off the stupid hooligans' ears, starting of course with perhaps the biggest vandal of the lot, Henry VIII! :-)


John R Ramsden