The History of Leith

January 14, 2012

St Giles-Edinburgh

THE church of St. Giles, or Sanctus Egidius, as he is termed in Latin, was the first parochial one erected in the city, and its history can be satisfactorily deduced from the early part of the 12th
century, when it superseded, or was engrafted on an edifice of much smaller size and older date, one founded about 100 years after the death of its patron saint, the abbot and confessor St. Giles, who was born in Athens, of noble—some say royal —parentage, and who, while young, sold his patrimony and left his native country, to the end that he might serve God in retirement. In the year 666 he arrived at Provence, in the south of France, and chose a retreat near Aries but afterwards, desiring more perfect solitude, he withdrew into a forest near Gardo, in the diocese of Nismes, having with him only one companion, Veredemus, who lived with him on the fruits of the earth and the milk of a hind. As Flavius Wamba, King of the Goths, was one day hunting in the neighbourhood
of Nismes, his hounds pursued her to the hermitage of the saint, where she took refuge. This hind has been ever associated with St. Giles, and its figure is to this day the sinister supporter of the city arms. (“Caledonia,” ii., p. 773.) St. Giles died in 721, on the ist of September, which was always held as his festival in Edinburgh; and to some disciple of the Benedictine establishment in the south of France we doubtless owe the dedication of the parish church there. He owes his memory in the English capital to Matilda of Scotland, queen of Henry I., who founded there St. Giles’s
hospital for lepers in 1117. Hence, the large parish which now lies in the heart of London took its name from the Greek recluse; and the master and brethren of that hospital used to present a bowl of ale to every felon as he passed their gate to Newgate

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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