Information about the sin the King had committed, but was too ashamed to confess, was delivered by an angel to St Giles as he stood at the altar celebrating Mass. So relates the legendary life of St Giles. The scene has inspired several artists. Sadly, the artists do not portray the scene in such a way that we can read the nature of the King’s sin.
In fact research has shown that most of the popular legend of St Giles, written two hundred years after his death, is built on fable and very uncertain fact. “Utter legend… which should be cast aside” writes one historian.
However, we do know that Giles was one of the best loved and most widely known saints in the Middle Ages. Over 160 churches in England alone are dedicated to him, and at least twenty four hospitals were named after him. He is commemorated in the calendars of many churches (Feast day 1st September).
What we do know about Giles is minimal. He was born about 640, and was given land in Provence to build a monastery. He became abbot and during his life was regarded as a saint. The monastery was well known in his day and received many visitors seeking prayer and advice.
For Giles to be regarded as a saint in his earthly life suggests he set his vision and formed his life on God’s kingdom. He had a special heart for those on the margins of life – especially lepers. His life, and holiness attracted others who came to him for guidance and prayer, and after his death they proclaimed him a saint. The power of his inspiration and example, though few facts are known about them, have helped enlarge the vision of the church, and led others to holiness. Mysteriously, yet wonderfully Giles quickly became and still remains an inspiration to the church.
Sanctity in life, inspiration and vision are hallmarks of the holy person of God, aspects of personality which we do well to cultivate and encourage within ourselves and others.
In our prayers and hopes let us be thankful for those whose holiness and vision inspire us.
St Giles, pray for us.