(Died 8th or 7th century)
St. Giles (or Egidio in Italian) is one of those characters whose story is shrouded in myth and legend.
It is believed he was born in Greece near Athens to a wealthy family who gave him a Christian education. One of the stories says that upon the death of his parents he dispersed his wealth to the poor and moved to France to live in a forest near Arles. Choosing to live the life of a hermit, Giles spent his time in poverty and prayer. He won the admiration of the local people but never sought any notoriety.
Legends say that during his withdrawal from society he was fed by a deer, sent from God, who gave him her milk. One day the animal was being chased by the king of the Goths who happened to be in the area while hunting. When the king came upon Giles, he immediately was impressed by the pious man and invited him to join the court. Giles refused the invitation but asked to build a monastery in the forest. The king gave him the land for his monastery and had it constructed. It became the destination of many pilgrims and Giles became its abbot.
Another story tells how the great Charlemagne came to Giles to confess. The great sovereign, however, refused to confess one very grave sin. An angel came to Giles and gave him a paper with written upon it the mysterious sin in question and the penance necessary for its pardon. Giles gave the paper to Charlemagne and seeing it, the king immediately repented.
In art, Giles is pictured with a shepherd’s staff and a deer. He is considered the protector of forests, nursing mothers, hermits and of several towns, especially in France.
Adapted by A.J. Valentini