Saint Giles was born in Greece sometime around 650 A.D. Although his origins are greatly disputed, he is largely thought to be of Athenian extraction and, possibly, of royal birth.
Giles’ parents died while he was still quite young. He quickly gained a reputation as a miracle worker and his desire for a quite, humble life forced him to leave Greece around 683. Giles went to Southern France and lived a completely secluded life. Supposedly, he lived on nothing but prayer, wild herbs, and the milk of a tame red deer who served as his only companion.
Giles was not disturbed until he was discovered by Wamba, a 7th century Visogothic king. While out hunting, Wamba caught sight of Giles’ deer. When the animal fled to the holy man for protection, Wamba accidently shot Giles in the leg. Although the saint survived, he was crippled for the rest of his life.
Wamba eventually built a monastery for Giles and a select few on the site that is now known as Saint Gilles du Gard. The abbey church can still be seen to this day and is often visited by pilgrims on their way to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela. Giles remained in the monastery for the rest of his life and he and his disciples followed the Rule of Saint Benedict.
Giles insisted on spending a great deal of time outside the monastery wall where he ministered to the poor, the crippled, and the lepers. There is a legend that, at some unknown date, Giles was present at a Mass celebrated in intercession for the remission of Charlemagne’s sins. Supposedly, an angel descended from heaven and placed on the altar a piece of paper describing a grave sin that Charlemagne had never confessed. Although there is little evidence to prove that this “Mass of Saint Giles” actually occurred, the saint is traditionally invoked to help the penitent make a good confession. This subject was later used by a 16th century artist known as the Master of Saint Giles.
Saint Giles died of natural causes sometime between 710 and 724 A.D. Veneration of the saint began before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints was formed.
Saint Giles is the patron saint of Tolfa, Italy and Edinburgh, Scotland, and also of lepers, cripples, cancer patients, and paupers. His feast day is September 1.
Source: Butler’s Lives of the Saints