Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Foillan, Martyr


Saint Ultan, Saint Fursey, and Saint Foillan, were three brothers, sons of Fyltan, king of Munster in Ireland. Fursey embraced a monastic life in the islands, and, after some years, returning home, persuaded Ultan, who was the eldest brother, and Foillon also, to renounce the world. Saint Fursey having travelled into England, and built the monastery of Knobersburg in the kingdom of the East-Angles, invited Foillan thither from Ireland, and left him abbot of that house. After the death of Saint Fursey, which happened at Peronne about the year 650, Saints Ultan and Foillan went into France. Some authors say Saint Foillan travelled to Rome, and was made regionary bishop. If this be true, at least he soon returned to Saint Ultan, and they went both together from Cambray to Nivelle in Brabant, where Saint Gertrude governed a great nunnery, which her parents, Blessed Pepin of Landen, and Blessed Ita, had founded, with a neighbouring monastery of men. They both staid here some time, till Saint Gertrude, after the death of her mother, in 652, gave to Saint Ultan a territory to build an hospital and monastery, which is called Fosse, situate between the Meuse and the Sambre, in the diocess of Maestricht, now of Liege. Saint Gertrude detained Saint Foillan at Nivelle, where he instructed the nuns, and preached to the people in the country. He was going to pay a visit to his brother Saint Ultan at Fosse in 655, when he and three companions were assassinated by robbers, or infidels, in the forest of Sonec, now Charbonniere, in Hainault, on the 31st of October. His relics are kept with veneration in the church of Fosse, formerly served by monks, now by secular canons. Saint Ultan governed the monasteries of Fosse and Mont-Saint-Quentin many years, and died on the 1st of May, towards the year 686.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Foillan, Martyr”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 12 August 2018. Web. 20 January 2019. <>