Saint of the Day – 1 December – “Good St Eligius”- St Eligius of Noyon (c 588-660) Bishop, Goldsmith, Royal Courtier and adviser to the King, peace-maker, servant of the poor and of slaves. He founded Monasteries and donated his own property for the founding of the first female Monastery in the area. Born in c 588 at at Catelat, near Limoges, France and died on 1 December 660 at Noyon, France of high fever, Also known as – Alar, Elaere, Elar, Elard, Eler, Eloi, Eloy, Eloye, Iler, Loie, Loije, Loy, Additional Memorials – 24 June (translation of relics, and blessing of horses), 8 November as one of the Saints of the Diocese of Evry. Patronages – carpenters, cartwrights, clock/watch makers, coin collectors, craftsmen of all kinds, cutlers, gilders, goldsmiths, harness makers, horses especially sick horses, jewelers; jockeys; knife makers; labourers, locksmiths, metalworkers in general, miners, minters, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, saddlers, tool makers, Veterinarians, against boils, against epidemics, against equine diseases, against poverty, against ulcers, agricultural workers, basket makers, Eloois-Vijve, Belgium, Sint-Eloois-Winkel, Belgium,
The Roman Martyrology states: “In Noyon in Neustria, now in France, Saint Eligius, Bishop, who, goldsmith and adviser to King Dagobert, after having contributed to the foundation of many Monasteries and built Sepulchral buildings of outstanding art and beauty in honour of the Saints, was raised to the See of Noyon and Tournai, where he zealously evangelised.”
Eligius was born around 588, originally from Chaptelat in Limousin. He belonged to a wealthy rural family who worked their own land, unlike many landowners who left the cultivation to slaves. He left the care of the family farm to one of his brothers and entered trade as a Goldsmith apprentice in a shop in which the Royal Coin was hammered, according to ancient Roman methods. He saved some of the income from his family and gave it in charity to the poor and to slaves. He was as clever in enamel as in gold chiselling. These professional qualities went hand-in-hand with a scrupulous honesty. When they asked him to make a golden throne for King Clothair II (613-629), he made a second with the extra gold he did not want to hold for himself.
This gesture, extraordinary at the time, earned him the trust of the King, who asked him to reside in Paris as the Royal Goldsmith, a Royal Court Officer and Court Counselor. Named coinmaster in Marseilles, he would redeem many of the slaves sold at the Port. When Dagobert became King in 629, he was summoned to Paris where he directed the shops of the Frankish kingdom in which coin was minted, which were in Paris on the Quai des Orfèvres at the present-day Rue de la Monnaie. Among others, he had the task of embellishing the tombs of Saint Genevieve and Saint Denis.
He made Reliquaries for Saint Germain, Saint Severinus, Saint Martin and Saint Columba and numerous Liturgical objects for the new Abbey of Saint Denis. Thanks to his honesty, his frankness and his capacity for peaceable judgement, he came so far into the King’s trust, that the latter called him to himself, and entrusted him with a peace mission to the Breton king, King Judicael.
Great was the piety and prayer life of this layman, who often attended monastic offices. In 632 he founded the Solignac Monastery south of Limoges. While Eligius still lived, the Monastery had grown to count more than 150 Monks under the two rules of St Benedict and St Colomba: – the Monastery was under the protection of the King and not under the authority of the Bishop. The religious fervour and the ardour of the Monks, made it one of the most illustrious Monasteries of the time. One year after the foundation of Solignac, Eligius founded, in his Ile de la Cité home, the first Monastic house for women religious in Paris, whose direction he entrusted to Saint Aurea.
A year after the death of King Dagobert, whom he had seen in the last moments of his life, Eligius left the Court together with Saint Audenus, who had served as adviser and Chancellor under Dagobert . Like Audenus, Eligius also entered formation and was Ordained Priest. On the same day, 13 May 641, they received the Episcopate: Saint Audenus to the See of Rouen; Eligius to that of Noyon and Tournai. Eligius put all his zeal into apostolic mission.
He died in 660, on the eve of his departure for Cahors. Holy Queen Bathilde travelled to greet him but she arrived too late.
There is a wonderful legend of St Eligius – the devil appeared to him dressed as a woman and he, Eligius, quickly grabbed him by the nose with his pincers. This colourful legend is depicted in two French Cathedrals (Angers and Le Mans) and in the Milan Cathedral, with the stained glass window by Niccolò da Varallo, a gift from the Milanese Goldsmiths in the fifteenth century. Ungfortunately, I cannot find any of these artworks.
In Paris, a Church was dedicated to him in the quarter of the blacksmiths, locksmiths and cabinet-makers. The Church of Saint Eligius was rebuilt in 1967. A church destroyed in 1793 was dedicated to him in the Rue des Orfèvres near the Hôtel de la Monnaie (the mint). In Notre Dame Cathedral, in the Chapel of Saint Ann, once home to the jewellers’ and goldsmiths’ confraternity, the jewellers and goldsmiths of Paris have placed his Statue and restored his Altar.
These are the Representations of this our little-known but o so holy and worthy Saint:
• 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
• man grasping a devil’s nose with pincers
• man holding a Chalice and Goldsmith’s hammer
• man holding a horse’s leg, which he detached from the horse in order to shoe it more easily
• man shoeing a horse
• man with hammer and crown near a smithy
• man with hammer, anvil and Saint Anthony
• man with Saint Godebertha of Noyon
• man giving a ring to Saint Godebertha
• man working as a Goldsmith.