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Saint Eligius

Saint Eligius was born on June 11th, 588 in the town of Chaptelat in modern day France (at the time though it was known as Aquitaine). His family was very influential and somewhat wealthy and was a mix of Gallo-Roman heritage. As a young child, he apprenticed under the the master of the mint at a town named Limoges before being transferred to the palace of the Franks at Neustria. It was here at Neustria that he worked under the Royal Treasurer Babo. The King of the Franks at the time, Clotaire II commissioned Saint Eligius to make a new throne. In Saint Ouen of Rouen's The Life of Saint Eligius we a description of this commission:

"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."

With the King's commission completed, Saint Eligius became famous for his gold work and soon was asked to make bas-reliefs for the tomb of Saint Germain and was appointed master of the mint at Marsilles. When King Clotaire died in 629, King Dagobert made Saint Eligius the chief councilor. His fame was so widespread by this time that ambassadors and court officials would often come to Saint Eligius before going to the king. He used this new widespread fame and influence to ransom Romans, Gauls, Bretons, Moors, and Saxons from the slave markets and to obtain money to distribute to the poor of the kingdom. Saint Ouen continues in his writings describing Saint Eligius:

"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."

Saint Eligius founded several monasteries, built the basilica of Saint Paul, and restored the Saint Martial basilica at Paris. He used his influence to have the bodies of executed criminals taken down and given proper burials and began living a strict Irish monastic rule that he helped introduce to monasteries in the area. When the Bishop of Noyon-Tournai died on March 14th of 642, Saint Eligius was named and consecrated the new Bishop. Saint Ouen wrote:

"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."

During this time Saint Eligius built a nunnery for virgins at Noyon, erected a church in honor of Saint Quentin when he located his relics, and made several missionary trips to help convert the Flemings, Frisians, Suevi and other Germanic tribes. A famous legend tells that there was a horse in his town that refused to be shod. Believing it to be possessed by demons, Saint Eligius cut off the horse's leg and while the horse stood on three legs, had the the hoof on the amputated leg reshod. He then miraculously reattached the leg to the horse.

Saint Eligius died on December 1st, 660 and was buried in his home of Noyon. He is honored and venerated as the Patron Saint of Goldsmiths, blacksmiths, cattle and horses, and the Patron Saint of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers among others. His feast day is on December 1st.

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