Donnerstag, 29. Januar 2009

St. Gall (d. 646)

As a Companion of the great Columban, thou didst travel throughout the lands of the Franks, O Father Gall, thy ascetic life contrasting with that of the worldly prelates whom thou didst encounter. Open to us, we pray thee, the treasures of sacrifice and struggle, that we too may attain the joy of eternal salvation. -Troparion of St Gall Tone 8

St. Gall was born in Ireland and was sent by his parents to be educated at the famous monastery of Bangor. He was ordained with the name Gall (possibly a Latin form of the gaelic gall, meaning “foreigner”) St. Gall was chosen together with eleven other monks to accompany St. Columban (not to be confused with St. Columba or Columcille of Iona) on a missionary venture to Gaul.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Gall departed for the Continent after his ordination in Ireland. On the other hand, a Russian Orthodox Church Abroad site says “the group traveled first to England and then and then, about the year 585, they crossed the channel.”

It must be pointed out that at this time, there was no England, but rather post-Arthurian British cheifdoms facing the encroachment of newly established Saxon territories. If Gall and his colleagues were in fact on the island at this time, they would have arrived about a decade after the death of St. Gildas (c. 570) and a mere generation after the legendary Battle of Camlann (as described in the Annales Cambriae) and the estimated death of Arthur (c. 542).

In 585, they founded a monastic community in the Vosges Mountains with support and kindness of the local Frankish chieftain. Five years later Columban, together with Gall, founded the famous monastery at Luxeuil, a former spa that had been plundered by the Huns.

They oversaw the growth of the Luxeuil community for over twenty years until persecution drove Columbanus further into the Continent. Gall travelled the Rhine as far as Bregenz, where he fell severely ill and was unable to follow Columbanus further. Gall remained in the region of Swabia (Schwaben, Schwabenland). The Swabian region covered parts of modern Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, German-speaking Switzerland, and parts of France. For his inability to fulfill obedience, Gall was forbidden to celebrate the Divine Liturgy as long as Columban was still alive. St. Columban went on to found the famous Bobbio Monastery.

After Gall recovered he moved to what is now Saint-Gall further west along Lake of Constance. Gifted in language (which may have been a reason he was chosen as a missionary), he learned the local Alemanni dialect and converted so many pagans he was known as the Apostle of Constance.

Tradition says St. Gall was miraculously informed of the death of St. Columban. A monk was then sent to Italy to and returned with the confirmation of St. Columban's repose. A letter from the Bobbio monks explained that Columban’s dying request was that Gall would inherit his abbot's staff. St. Gall wept abundantly. Not only had he been obedient by not celebrating the Divine Liturgy, but he had refused offers to become bishop. St. Gall then resumed the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. He spent most of his time in his cell, leaving it only to preach the Gospel and to instruct his humble flock.

Tradition also says a bear would visit him and bring wood to feed the fire which Gall and his companions had kindled in the forest. Even today a bear is represented on the town flag of St. Gall as the symbol of the Saint.

St. Gall died on the of October 16th, 646 at an old age. He left behind a Christianized Alemanni nation. After his death a small church was erected which developed into the Abbey of St. Gall and the surrounding land developed into the Swiss Canton of St. Gallen.

The only writing of St. Gall that has come down to us is a homily which he delivered when his disciple John became a bishop. St. Gall himself had been proposed for this honor but he again declined, recommending his disciple in his stead. (The text of the homily is found in Canisius' Lectiones Antiquae.)

In the territorial reorganization of the Holy Roman Empire of 1803 all the ecclesiastical estates were secularized, and a part of Swabia was incorporated into the state of Bavaria, forming what is now the Bavarian administrative region of Swabia.

Despite losing precious manuscripts during the Protestant Reformation, the Abbey of St Gall is still one of the most important in Europe. Its library is one of the richest and oldest in the world and is home to one of the most comprehensive collections of early medieval books in German-speaking Europe. A new manuscript digitization initiative is underway and can be viewed online here.

The Feast of St. Gall is celebrated on October 16.

Sources:
http://www.roca.org/OA/63/63f.htm#Saint%20Gall
Elgin Moyer "Who Was Who In Church History" Moody Press, 1974.

1 comments:

aaronandbrighid hat gesagt…

I like that little statue of St Gall. He almost looks like a Hummel figurine!