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Gall, St.


Irish missionary to the Continent; b. Ireland, c. 560;d. Switzerland, after 615, c. 63035. Gall was known personally to jonas of bobbio, the biographer of columban, Gall's religious superior. However, Jonas has little to say about Gall except to recount the incident when Columban ordered Gall to fish in the Breuchin, which flows into the Lanterne, and Gall decided to try the L'Ognan, a tributary of the Aar, instead. He caught nothing. On being reproved by Columban for his disobedience, he returned to the Breuchin and had a large catch. This account of Jonas is the only really authentic information available on Gall; for other details of his life one must depend on a vita written as late as c. 771 (which survives but in fragmentary form) and later accounts apparently based on it. According to these documents, Gall was offered to God as a child, in the Abbey of bangor, where he was placed under the guidance of Columban. When he set off for the Continent with Columban (c. 590), Gall was already a priest and so at least 30 years old (the canonical age for ordination). This places his birth in 560 or before. The history of his early years on the Continent is that of Columban. Gall's separate story begins with Columban's departure from Brigantium (presentday Bregenz), at the eastern extremity of Lake Constance, just after 610, for Italy. Gall's vita states that Gunzo, Duke of the alamanni, was responsible for this departure, but he is not mentioned elsewhere. However, it is known that at that time, Theodoric, Columban's old enemy, had conquered his brother Theudibert and was controlling the Alamanni. In any case, Gall remained behind because of illness when Columban departed. Later Gall established a hermitage at the source of the Steinach, where he was joined by disciples. He spent the remainder of his life in meditation and in converting the Alamanni. The date of his death is uncertain, but apparently it was after that of Columban (d. 615). A genealogy makes Gall a relation of St. brigid, but this may safely be ignored. He is normally represented with a bear, mentioned in one of the legendary accounts of his life. His cult spread throughout Switzerland and into Alsace, Lorraine, Germany, and Italy. The famous Abbey of sankt gallen was established nearly a century after his death on the site of his hermitage.

Feast: Oct. 16.

Bibliography: kenney, discusses the sources and gives a comprehensive bibliog. m. joynt, The Life of St. G. (London 1927), including an Eng. tr. of Gall's life by walafrid strabo c. 833. b. and h. helbling, "Der heilige Gallus in der Geschichte", Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Geschichte 12 (1962) 162. l. hertling, "Saint G. in Switzerland," in Irish Monks in the Golden Age, ed. j. j. ryan (Dublin 1963) 5972. l. gougaud, Gaelic Pioneers of Christianity, tr. v. collins (Dublin 1923) 124126, on cult. a. m. tommasini, Irish Saints in Italy, tr. j. f. scanlan (London 1937) 252264, on cult. j. duft, Die GallusKapelle zu St. Gallen und ihr Bilderzyklus (St. Gallen 1977), iconography at Saint Gallen. p. osterwalder, St. Gallus in der Dichtung (St. Gallen 1983).

[c. mcgrath]

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