Saint Eligius

Infobox Saint
name=Saint Eligius
birth_date=c. 588
death_date=death date|660|12|1|df=y
feast_day=1 December
venerated_in=Roman Catholic Church

caption="The Legend of Saint Eligius and Saint Godeberta", by Petrus Christus. Eligius is said to have presented this saint with a gold ring, which is preserved in the cathedral of Noyon.
birth_place=Chaptelat, Limoges, France
death_place=Noyon, France
titles=Bishop and Confessor
attributes=anvil; bishop with a crosier in his right hand, on the open palm of his left a miniature church of chased gold; bishop with a hammer, anvil, and horseshoe; bishop with a horse; courtier; goldsmith; hammer; holding a horse's leg, which he detached from the horse in order to shoe it more easily; horseshoe; man grasping a devil's nose with pincers; man holding a chalice and goldsmith's hammer; man shoeing a horse; man with hammer and crown near a smithy; man with hammer, anvil, and Saint Anthony; pincers; with Saint Godeberta; giving a ring to Saint Godeberta; working as a goldsmith
patronage=cartwrights; clock/watch makers; coin collectors; craftsmen of all kinds; cutlers; gilders; goldsmiths; harness makers; horses; jewelers; jockeys; knife makers; laborers; locksmiths; metalworkers in general; miners; minters; Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers; saddlers; tool makers; veterinarians

Saint Eligius or Loye (French: "Éloi") (ca. 588-590 - December 1, 659 or 660) is the patron saint of goldsmiths and other metalworkers. He is also the patron saint of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), a corps of the British Army. But he is best known for being the patron saint of horses and those who work with them. Eligius was chief counsellor to Dagobert I, Merovingian king of France. Appointed the bishop of Noyon-Tournai three years after the king's death in 642, Eligius worked for twenty years to convert the pagan population of Flanders to Christianity.

Eligius was born at the "villa" of Chaptelat (modern Cadillac?), six miles west of Limoges, in Aquitaine (now France), into an educated and influential Gallo-Roman family. His father, recognizing unusual talent in his son, sent him to the goldsmith Abbo, master of the mint at Limoges. Later Eligius went to Neustria, the kingdom of the Franks, where he worked under Babo, the royal treasurer, on whose recommendation Clotaire II, king of the Franks, is said to have commissioned him to make a throne of gold adorned with precious stones.

:"And from that which he had taken for a single piece of work, he was able to make two. Incredibly, he could do it all from the same weight for he had accomplished the work commissioned from him without any fraud or mixture of "siliquae", or any other fraudulence. Not claiming fragments bitten off by the file or using the devouring flame of the furnace for an excuse, but filling all faithfully with gems, he happily earned his happy reward."cite book | last =Saint Ouen of Rouen | authorlink =Ouen | coauthors =trans. Jo Ann McNamara | title =The Life of Saint Eligius ("Vita Sanci Eligii") | url =]

The story, from the contemporary biography written by his friend Dado (Ouen), gives a sense of the level of corruption that was a normal expectation in Merovingian France.

Among other goldsmith's work soon entrusted to Eligius were the bas-reliefs for the tomb of Saint Germain, bishop of Paris. Clotaire took Eligius into the royal household and appointed him master of the mint at Marseille.

After the death of Clotaire in 629, Dagobert appointed his father's friend his chief councillor. Eligius' reputation spread rapidly, to the extent that ambassadors first sought out Eligius for counsel and to pay their respects to him before going to the king. He made some enemies. His success in inducing the Breton prince, Judicael ap Hoel, to make a pact with Dagobert, at a meeting at the king's villa of Creil (636–37) increased his influence::'Indeed King Dagobert, swift, handsome and famous with no rival among any of the earlier kings of the Franks, loved him so much that he would often take himself out of the crowds of princes, optimates, dukes or bishops around him and seek private counsel from Eligius".

Eligius took advantage of this royal favor to obtain alms for the poor, and to ransom captive Romans, Gauls, Bretons, Moors, and especially Saxons, who were arriving daily at the slave market in Marseille. His friend recalled him with love:

:"He was tall with a rosy face. He had a pretty head of hair with curly locks. His hands were honest and his fingers long. He had the face of an angel and a prudent look. At first, he was used to wear gold and gems on his clothes, having belts composed of gold and gems and elegantly jeweled purses, linens covered with red metal and golden sacs hemmed with gold and all of the most precious fabrics including all of silk. But all of this was but fleeting ostentation from the beginning and beneath he wore a hairshirt next to his flesh and, as he proceeded to perfection, he gave the ornaments for the needs of the poor. Then you would see him, whom you had once seen gleaming with the weight of the gold and gems that covered him, go covered in the vilest clothing with a rope for a belt."

Besides Eligius' self-mortification, Dado recalled his propensity for weeping, "For he had the great grace of tears."

Eligius founded several monasteries, and with the king's consent, sent his servants through towns and villages to take down the bodies of criminals who had been executed and give them decent burial. Eligius was a source of edification at court, where he and his friend Ouen lived according to the strict Irish monastic rule that had been introduced into Gaul by Saint Columbanus. Eligius introduced this rule, either entirely or in part, into the monastery of Solignac near Limoges, which he founded in 632 at a villa he had purchased, and also at the convent he founded at Paris, where three hundred virgins were under the guidance of the Abbess Aurea. He also built the basilica of St. Paul, and restored the basilica at Paris that was devoted to Saint Martial, the patron bishop-saint of his native Limoges. Eligius also erected several fine tombs in honor of the relics of Saint Martin of Tours, the national saint of the Franks, and Saint Denis, who was chosen patron saint by the king.

On the death of Dagobert (639), Queen Nanthild took the reins of government, the king Clovis II being a child. During this regency, Elegius launched a campaign against simony in the church. On the death of Acarius, Bishop of Noyon-Tournai, March 14 of Clovis's third year (642), Eligius was made his successor, with the unanimous approbation of clergy and people. "So the unwilling goldsmith was tonsured and constituted guardian of the towns or municipalities of Vermandois which include the metropolis, Tournai, which was once a royal city, and Noyon and Ghent and Kortrijk of Flanders."

The inhabitants of his new diocese were pagans for the most part. He undertook the conversion of the Flemings, Frisians, Suevi, and the barbarian tribes along the North Sea coast. He made frequent missionary excursions and also founded a great many monasteries and churches. In his own episcopal city of Noyon he built and endowed a nunnery 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 his martyred companions, and in 654 removed the remains of Saint Fursey, the celebrated Irish missionary (died 650).

Eligius died December 1, 659 or 660 and was buried at Noyon.

Several writings of Eligius have survived: a sermon in which he combats the pagan practices of his time, a homily on the Last Judgment, and a letter written in 645, in which he begs for the prayers of Bishop Desiderius of Cahors. There are fourteen other pseudepigraphical homilies that are no longer attributed to him.


St. Eligius is particularly honored in Flanders, in the province of Antwerp, and at Tournai, Kortrijk, Ghent, Bruges, and Douai. During the Middle Ages his relics were the object of special veneration, and were repeatedly divided and transferred to other resting-places, in 881, 1066, 1137, 1255, and 1306. A mass of legend has gathered round the life of Saint Eloi, who as the patron saint of goldsmiths is still very popular.

He is the patron of goldsmiths, blacksmiths, and all workers in metal. He is generally represented as a bishop, a crosier in his right hand, holding a miniature church of chased gold on the open palm of his left hand. The most familiar image of him is Petrus Christus' painting, "Portrait of a betrothed couple and St. Eligius," of 1449, which is also called "The Legend of Saint Godeberta and Saint Eligius".

The hospital in Boston in the NBC drama series "St. Elsewhere" bears the name of St. Eligius.


External links

* [ "Catholic Encyclopedia"] "St. Eligius"
* [ Ouen's "Vita"] , written by his friend, housemate and companion Dado, Saint Ouen, who was high among the "optimates" at the Frankish court
* [ Life, icons, artworks] relating to St. Eligius, bishop of Tournai-Noyon (in French)

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