The life of St. Giles, known in early writings as Aegidius, is derived from a mixture of legend and history woven together around the deeds of a saint.
He is reputed to have been born in Athens, the son of Theodore and Pelagia, in about 640. When he was twenty-four his parents died, and Giles, stricken by the double loss, and unconsoled by the pleasures of fashionable life, sold all that he had and gave to the poor in order to follow Christ.
Seeking the solitary life of a hermit, he finally settled in the depth of a forest near Nimes, where he found a hollow of a rock in a green glade by a stream, shaded by four gigantic oaks. There he lived in peace and prayer, his only companion a gentle hind (his emblem), whose milk he drank.
Here he was discovered by Flavius (Wamba), king of the VisiGoths. The king was out hunting and shot an arrow at the hind, missed it, and hit Giles, who was at his devotions. Though wounded, Giles continued at his prayers and refused all compensation for the injury done to his body. This incident made him a great favourite at Court, especially with Wamba, who pressed him to stay. The king would have given him lands for any foundation he chose, but no entreaties would persuade him to desert his life of solitude and prayer.
Legend goes on to say that Giles consented to be the founder of the monastery near Nimes about 673, which flourished till the Saracen invasion, when it was burned down and he and his monks took refuge with Charles Martel, aiding him by their prayers in his great battle for Christianity in the West. St. Giles’ monastery was restored, and with the words, ” Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace,” he died on 1 September in 720.
St. Giles became one of the most popular saints in the West, the patron saint of woodland, of lepers, beggars, cripples, and of those struck by sudden misery, and today is his feast day.
This stained glass of the saint is from Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.