The Northern Way

The Life of St. Eligius, 588-660

Book 2

69. And in the monastery the holy man built at Noyon, an old woman collected his hair clippings for herself and put them in a covered basket in a sack under her bed. But often, after the blessed man migrated from the world, when all were blinded by the gloomy shadows of night, so splendid a ray shone from that place that it drove out all the nocturnal darkness from the house. When the nuns discerned it to be from that woman's place, they called the sister and strove to learn from her what might cause radiance that shone from her bed at night. Then recalling the relics of the holy man, she explained, to the wonder of them all, that this must be the cause. And hearing this the women went straight to the place and took up the relics soon bringing them to a worthy place, glorifying and praising God who is faithful in his words and furnishes such glory to his saints.

70. But neither should I be silent that a brother in a monastery in the Touraine received a cure. There was a certain honorable monk known familiarly to me, who labored for several days with an advancing illness in his viscera and when he could not regain any part of his strength or recover his health, inspired by the mercy of God, he finally covered himself with holy Eligius's chasuble which he had preserved with great reverence. Of course, clothed so out of faith and wrapped like an old woman with each limb failing from severe weakness, leaning on a staff, he received the communion of Christ. Afterwards he was rendered whole and sound and so that while he convalesced he was more vigorous than he had been before.

71. Another brother in my monastery, his body filled with pus was troubled by a most serious tertian fever. When the disease grew stronger over many days, he was greatly terrified that he would shake himself to pieces with each of his limbs trembling with weakness. One of the deacons of the monastery inspected the tremor and offered to impose a certain piece of linen which blessed Eligius had once worn on his body on the sick man's breast. After he had done that three times, the sick man began to sweat copiously and turn red. With a violent gasp his chest quaking, suddenly he vomited a great abundance of bile. and thereafter, by the merciful grace of Christ, convalescing, he received his pristine health.

72. And I certainly must add this, that a certain man living not far from the confines of the city of Rheims conceived, by the desire of a religious mind, that he should build a basilica in honor of holy Eligius on his estate. And when it was done, desiring it to be adorned with relics of this same holy confessor, he went to the municipium of Noyon. When he arrived there he sued for relics and obtained what he required. But when he wanted to leave the town, a certain cleric agitated by greed appeared and began violently to detain him saying that he could not allow him to take the relics away for free but he must pay some reward for them. Then the aforesaid man, in order to escape speedily from his hands, gave him a small present of what he happened to have with him at the moment, not without grief. Avidly grabbing the offering, without hesitation, he hid it within his pocket. Immediately glowing with divine fire, it suddenly began to burn his breast and his clothing with an intense conflagration compelling him to cry out in a loud voice, "Spare me, Saint Eligius, because miserable I should never have presumed to act as I have!" Soon the bystanders hastily pulled off his smoking clothes and restored the gift he had accepted to the traveller. Then they led the penitent weeping many tears to the tomb of the confessor, where, rubbing him with oils, they soon sedated the burns and he was freed from torment. I don't doubt that this happened so that those of similar greediness might be more easily attacked and their rapacity confounded, at least those who are not respectful of them perversely accepting money to sell the relics of saints. Therefore cease, I beg, this contagium in all places, lest it kindles the same fire.

73. I add something that I know from the testimony of the devout man Fredegisil the priest. A certain monk coming from Noyon carried relics of blessed Eligius with him so that naturally, as is proper, he bestowed them with great reverence on the basilica. After some days two men, one blind and the other lame faithfully prostrating themselves there were healed only by the saint's intervention; the blind man, of course receiving light and the lame one the ability to walk and, after being cured, both returned home. Likewise in another basilica which was most elegantly built in Aquitaine, a man similarly stricken with a lame foot was healed when he was anointed with the oil which had been placed on the altar before worship. The bonds on his nerves were loosed and he was healed.


75. One of the brothers from among the monks of blessed Eligius lay at one time in his bed struck by a gouty humor in the foot so swollen that he could in no way bear to put his foot on the ground. After some while he confided this about the merits of the confessor, melotem of blessed Eligius, that for a great reward to one who served him, touched him devoutly and softening the swollen and immobile foot with his mouth, he restored his ability to walk and from that time forward he was free of the gout. Indeed I have thought it fitting to include it in this book what he declared to be a miracle.

76. When the blessed man was accustomed to go frequently to he royal villa at CompiŠgne, he established a hospice above the river Oise where he installed one of his servants named Waldoleno. And after he migrated from the world, that host showed little reverence for the episcopal blanket which he wore out through careless bedding, draping in over so many beds of men of no account. The bed frame which his holy hands had often touched, made a threshold for the door. And with no hesitation, he joined with his wife in that place where the blessed man had rested. And behold! that very night he was seized with fever and began at the same time to weaken, tremble, sweat and turn pale; and his feet which had trampled the couch with the bedding began to hurt terribly and to aggravate the strength of the burning fever so that he was compelled to keep them from making a step. And when he was thus tormented so fiercely, his wife in a vision was warned that they should both move as far as they could and, with the utmost diligence, restore the couch which they had thrown down so carelessly to its original place with all the bedding as it had been composed. But she was carelessly forgetful of the vision so her husband was tortured even more atrociously and the next night he was admonished that unless he got up immediately from the bed he would be even more severely afflicted. Once the vision had instructed him, the fever began to recede and he arose so that he could restore the bed. When he had diligently gone out of the place and restored the cleansed bed as it was before and made much penitence, he was healed. News of this miracle spread abroad people began to understand that gifts were coming in that place and crowds of people began to come and declare the great wondrous powers demonstrated there. And they began to make contributions. A basilica was constructed and the hospice worthily kept the bed Eligius possessed worthily wonderfully adorned in eternity. And Clement the bishop of Beauvais had it under his regimen and many miracles occurred from which I shall commemorate only two.

77. One day the brother kings Clothar and Theuderic, having left their palace, turned into this place to pray. When they had prayed, they were returning home when one of their optimates gave wise counsel that they should leave some alms in that place in veneration of the saint. But the elder king in swift disdain neglected these words while the younger, who had progressed further into maturity, placed some gold coins with a vow from the radiant metal. They both left and went home. King Clothar was seized with fever rolled into a ball with his whole body burning and suddenly, [blood] flowing from his head, he began to suffer from a sharp toothache. And that night in the greatest agony he remembered how negligent he had been the day before when he had fled the sanctuary of holy Eligius while his brother had given alms and he had offered nothing. Therefore, he had earned this punishment. He sent much public money by a trusted person. And as soon as the gift was laid down there, he was immediately cured and regained his health without delay.


79. Many other similar things, by order of the lord, were achieved by the virtues of his merits, among which a lamp overflowed, exuding an excess of oil from which many by that holy liquor were anointed here and healed of diverse disabilities and were blessed in the name of the savior our Lord. And all this was done in CompiŠgne. But likewise his bed. situated in the monastery on his estates called Vitry-en-Artois, announced similar virtues and effected diverse cures. All of which we would lead us to proceed away from the order of our words and therefore about them we complete but a few syllables because now we must hasten to cease from this overlong locution.

80. Miracles from the blessed man still help some in this place and from different other places but particularly his most sacred body revealed so many things that if we tried to steer a course through them one by one as they happened we would greatly exceed this volume and in that way irritate the reader with overwhelming boredom. So let us be content to have said enough. For the faithful will recognize that each thing we have said will stand for many more. One of these things will be shown by the chains which now are shown hanging from his tomb. We might just sample something from the many things we could commemorate. For many broken chains testify to all and the broken leg shackles that are shown, smashed stones and crutches of the lame are shown in proof. Expulsion of demons and enlightenment of the blind are only marked by blood on the pavement. And these deeds are repeated many times over. If only there were time and space, how many and what sort of things were done and do not cease today to mark the tomb of the prelate? For no, there is no cessation even today but the sick come and are given healing. They flee in irons and are loosed. The sick come in litters and walk away returning on foot to their homes. They come in peril and with demons troubling them. Demoniacs come and are freed; the blind come and are illuminated.

81. But because by the generosity of the lord, we have set out this word we now must pray the reader not to despise the vileness of our words because it might be possible to make a more eloquent prayer but we correct the pen most studiously that we might commend something better than words to the readers. So this work should not be swollen with inflated eloquence that springs from an antistes of such eloquence. So let these pages show that I am more devout than daring because I have not snatched by presumption the burden of such strength softened, when I know so insignificant and trifling an author to be unworthy of such excellent things. But when I am the debtor for 10,000 talents, I have hastened to render up this insignificant gift to him from whom I received them, fearing to incur guilt by keeping silence


This ends the life of Saint Eligius bishop and confessor.

Source: Vita S. Eligius, ed. Levison, MGH SS Mer. 4, 669-742

Translation and notes, © 1997, Jo Ann McNamara []

This text will be published in Medieval Hagiography: A Sourcebook, ed. Thomas Head, (New York: Garland, forthcoming 1999). The version here is a complete translation of the MGH text, whereas the print version has been cut. It, however, notes and this one does not. There is a note in the "further readings" section of Prf. Head's compilation directing the reader to the complete version at the Internet Medieval Sourcebook.

Permission is granted for distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use, including use by university presses..

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