Hermit, abbot, and one of the fourteen holy helpers; d. c. 720. According to the 10th-century vita, Giles (Aegidius) was an Athenian who came to Marseilles and became a hermit near the mouth of the Rhone. He influenced a certain Flavius, King of the Goths, to build an abbey there, and later became confessor to King Charles of France. This most untrustworthy biography was composed to satisfy pilgrims on the road to Rome and santiago de compostela; the bulls for the founding of the abbey are 9th century, and seem to be forgeries invented to help the monks of saint-gilles to free themselves from the authority of the bishop of Nîmes. However, the tomb of the saint at the abbey became a great pilgrimage place, making the town of Saint-Gilles prosperous. The cult of the saint spread throughout western Europe, and especially to England; he was invoked as patron of cripples, beggars, and blacksmiths. His emblem is a hind with an arrow. Because of the dubious quality of the sources, Pope Benedict XIV's commission proposed removal of this feast from the general calendar.
Feast: Sept. 1.
Bibliography: Acta Santorum Sept. 1:284–304. Analecta Bollandiana 8 (1889) 103–120. f. brittain, Saint Giles (Cambridge, Eng. 1928). a. fliche, Aigues-Mortes et Saint-Gilles (Paris 1950). g. jacquemet, Catholicisme 5:19–20. a. m. zimmermann, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 1:190. a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, rev. ed. h. thurston and d. attwater, 4 v. (New York 1956) 3:457–458.
[g. j. donnelly]