Eligius, Eloi, or Eloysius

Eligius, Eloi, or Eloysius (ST.), bishop of Novon, one of the most eminent names in the ecclesiastical history of France, was born at Cadillac, near Limoges, in or shortly before the year 588. He learned the trade of a goldsmith, and became the most skillful artist of the day, especially in ornaments for churches and tombs. He gained the confidence of Clotaire II, and stood high at his court. While working at his art, he always had an open Bible before him. He devoted his gains to works of piety, especially to the redemption of slaves from captivity, sometimes emancipating a hundred at one time. As a layman, he instructed the common people constantly. Dagobert, the son and successor of Clotaire, made him his treasurer, and employed him for important missions, in which he was always successful. Thus he brought about a treaty of peace between Dagobert and Judicahill, duke of Brittany. Eligius availed himself of his influence with the weak and licentious Dagobert to obtain large donations, which he used for the establishment of churches, monasteries, and hospitals. In 640, two years after the death of Dagobert, the majordomo Herchenoald, who was regent during the minority of Clodvig II, in order to get rid of the influence of Eligius, appointed him bishop of Noyon. In this office he was in labors abundant for eighteen years, preaching, taking missionary tours, and founding churches and monasteries. Eligius seems to have been a thoroughly converted man, and his life is indeed a light in a dark place. Eligius, together with his friend Audoenus (St. Ouen), archbishop of Rheims, had a predominating influence upon the churches of Gaul; and although most of the bishops disliked the rigor and severity of Eligius, they yielded to his zeal and authority. Thus, in 644, at a synod of Chalons sur Saone, very strict rules were given for the appointment of bishops and abbots; and the metropolitan Theodosius of Aries, who had violated many Church laws, was suspended from his office. When bishop Martin of Rome, in the Monothelitic controversy, was imprisoned and exiled by the emperor, the majority of the Gallic bishops, at a council held in Orleans, under the leadership of Eligius and Audoenus, declared for the pope and against the Monothelites, who were cruelly persecuted. After the death of Clodvig II and Herchenoald, Eligius was recalled by the queen dowager Bathilde to the court, where he remained until shortly before his death. He died at Noyon Nov. 30, 658 (or 659), and the people soon after began to venerate him as a saint. His life (Vita S. Eligii), written by his disciple Audoenus (St. Ouen), will be found in D'Achery, Spicilegium, 2:76-123, and in Migne, Patrol. Latin. 89:474. The extracts from sermons of Eligius which are included in this biography are almost verbally taken from the sermons of Caesarius of Aries. In its present form this work is undoubtedly of a later origin. Sixteen homilies are given to him in Bib. Max. Patr. 12:300; also in Migne, Patrol. Latin. 97:595; but their genuineness is questioned. A letter from Eligius to bishop Desiderius of Cahors is given in Canisii Antiquit. Lection. ed. Basnage, tom. 1, and in Migne, 87:657. See Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 3:760; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Gener. 15:904; Neander, Ch. Hist. 3:41, 42; Neander, Light in Dark Places; Mosheim, Ch. Hist. book 2, chapter 7, part 2, chapter 2, n. 24.

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