Humble, Generous Eligius Became Bishop

Dan Graves, MSL

Humble, Generous Eligius Became Bishop

Looking for Eligius, are you? Go down that street over there and when you see a crowd of beggars in front of a house, you've found him." That was how men directed inquirers to Eligius.

As a young man, Eligius was reared by godly parents; he learned Scripture and meditated on it. He also learned the art of a goldsmith and was trained in his craft by a godly metal worker. He became so skilled at his vocation that the King of France made him master of the mint and bestowed many gifts upon him. But wealth never turned Eligius' head. If at first he dressed in rare silks, after a while he took to wearing simple garb with a rope belt. Whenever the king gave him fine gifts, he passed them along to the needy.

The king's goldsmith was always prompt to do good. He paid to bury common criminals, ransomed great numbers of slaves and openly advised and warned the king about spiritual matters. Far from resenting this, the king donated him land to build a monastery. So great was his honesty, that when he discovered that he had taken a foot too much land for the building, he immediately went to king Dagobert and fell at his feet, apologizing with tears. Dagobert doubled the donation and said to his courtiers, "See how faithful and careful those who serve Christ are. My officers and governors stick not to rob me of whole estates, whereas Eligius trembles at the apprehension of having one inch of ground which is mine."

Eligius knew how to make the most of his time. While engaged in the king's business or in adorning the tombs of saints, he kept books handy and dipped into them to furnish his mind with themes on which to meditate as his hands plied his tools. He decided to live a more rigorous religious life. He became friends with the noblest and best bishops, archbishops and other religious leaders of the day.

When Bishop Acarius died in 639, King Clovis II, who had replaced Dagobert, asked Eligius to take his place as Bishop of Noyen (in the vicinity of Belgium). Eligius trembled at the thought of this great responsibility and pleaded for time to prepare himself. After two years of study and ordination as a priest, he accepted his new duties. He became bishop on this day, May 13, 641.

He spent his first year reforming the clergymen under his charge and set them an example of strict living. His reforms completed, he turned his attention to the heathen around Noyen. These men were so anti-Christian that they would gladly have torn him to pieces. Yet he tended their sick and assisted them in every way he could think of until his love broke down their resistance. His goodness, meekness and self-sacrifice won their hearts and many converted to Christianity.

Eligius died of a fever at seventy years of age on December 1 either in the year 659 or 665.


  1. Butler, Alban. Lives of the Saints. Several editions available.
  2. "St. Eligius or Eloy." Lives of the Saints.
  3. "St. Eligius: Redemption of Slaves, c. 630." Medieval Sourcebook. halsall/source/630Eligius.html
  4. Van Der Essen, L. "St. Eligius." The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton, 1909.
  5. Various encyclopedia and internet articles.

Last updated July, 2007

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