St. Eligius: Patron of Metalworkers and Craftsmen
December 1 is the feast day of St. Eligius, who was born to Roman parents, Eucherius and Terrigia, around 590 near Limoges in France. His father was a metalsmith and Eligius and recognizing his son’s extraordinary talent, his father apprenticed him to the noted goldsmith Abbo, master of the mint at Limoges. Eligius then went to Neustria, where he worked under Babo, the royal treasurer. King Clotaire II of Paris commissioned him to make a throne of gold adorned with precious stones. His honesty in this project pleased the king so much that he appointed him master of the mint at Marseilles. Eligius developed a close friendship with the King and became renowned in his craft. He was later appointed as Counselor to and diplomat for King Dagobert I, King of the Franks.
In 1640, Eligius was ordained as a priest and later was appointed Bishop of Noyon, France and Tournai, Belgium. He relinquished his great wealth to the poor and to the Church. Known for his charity, piety, diligence, and honesty, Eligius was generous to the poor, ransomed slaves, built churches, as well as a monastery at Solignac, France, and a major convent in Paris.
Eligius died on December 1, around 660, at Noyon. He is the patron of metalworkers and craftsmen. His patronage of horses and the people who work with them stems first from his patronage of smiths and craftsmen, but also from his having left a horse to a priest at his death. The new bishop liked the horse, and took it from the priest. The horse became sick, but recovered immediately when it was returned to the priest that Eligius had selected to be its owner.
Saint Eligius is particularly honored in Flanders, in the province of Antwerp, and at Tournai, Courtrai of Ghent, Bruges, and Douai. He is usually represented in Christian art in the garb of a bishop, a crosier in his right hand, on the open palm of his left a miniature church of gold.