Saint Gerald of Aurillac
Saint Gerald of Aurillac
|Venerated in||Catholic Church|
Eastern Orthodox Church
|Patronage||bachelors, counts, disabled people, Upper Auvergne|
Gerald was born into the Gallo-Roman nobility, counting Cesarius of Arles among his forebears, though the title "Count of Aurillac" was not held by his father, to whose estates he succeeded, and was assumed by him in later life. The details of his life known today come primarily from The Life of St. Gerald of Aurillac (c. 930–931) written by Odo of Cluny. Writing twenty years after the event, Abbot Odo of Cluny described how William, duke of Aquitaine, had entreated Gerald to abandon the militia regia, the feudal service performed directly to the king and pay homage to himself, "for the sake of love". Gerald resisted, having recently assumed the title of comes and doubtless preferring to own his fealty to the more distant liege, the king at Paris.
According to Odo, Gerald suffered an illness as a child, sufficient in duration to advance his reading, and may have been disfigured by acne. In later life he was to suffer blindness. He seriously considered joining a religious order, but was persuaded against it by his friend Geusbert, Bishop of Rodez, on the grounds that with his social position he could do more good by remaining in the world as a layman. Nevertheless, secretly tonsured under his habitual cap, he consecrated his life in service to God, gave away his possessions, took a personal vow of chastity and prayed the breviary each day.
He founded a church and abbey on his estate of Aurillac, where he was buried after dying at Cenezac, on a Friday 13 October, probably in 909. His memorial feast day is October 13. The validation of his local cult by Odo of Cluny served to establish his wider veneration. Saint Gerald, considered by his Church and his followers as a great example of a celibate Christian aristocrat, is the patron saint of counts and bachelors. Because of his poor health and blindness, more emphasized in his developing cult than in Odo's Life, he is also the patron saint of the disabled, handicapped, and physically challenged. He also became the patron saint of Upper Auvergne.
- Dates in Sitwell 1958:94 note 2
- According to Odo of Cluny, (Sitwell 1958:90) noted in Derek Baker, "'Vir dei'", in G. J. Cuming and Derek Baker, eds. Popular Belief and Practice: papers read at the ninth summer meeting (Ecclesiastical History Society) 1972:43 note 8.
- Sitwell points out there was no count of Aurillac before or after him. (Sitwell 1958:122); Odo's favore comitis nuper usurpato "could bear a stronger translation", Baker notes (Baker 1972:44 note 3).
- G. Sitwell, tr. in St Odo of Cluny, 1958:90–180; there are two Latin versions of Odo's Life: A. Poncelet, "La plus ancienne 'Vie de Saint Géraud", Ann. Bolandist, 14 (1895:83–105).
- Georges Duby, France in the Middle Ages 987–1460, 1993:28, notes that this sheds light on the process by which political institutions, at the low point of the monarchy, were locally reinvigorated.
- Charles the Simple was the king at Paris, but not far beyond.
- "And for a long time he was covered with small pimples that it was not thought that he could be cured. For this reason his father and mother decided that he should be put more closely to the study of letters, so that if he should prove unsuited for worldly pursuits he might be fitted for the ecclesiastical state." (Odo, tr, Sitwell, quoted in Baker 1972:45).
- Saint of the Day, October 13 SaintPatrickDC.org. Retrieved 2012-03-08.
- Saint Gerald of Aurillac Archived 2008-07-02 at the Wayback Machine at Patron Saints Index
- University of Kansas Lecture on Gerald of Aurillac
- The Life of Saint Gerald of Aurillac by Odo of Cluny, trans. Gerald Sitwell, O.S.B. (Google Books)