Brother of Saint Fursey of Peronne and Saint Ultan of Péronne. Travelled with them from Ireland to East Anglia, England c.630 where they worked as missionaries, and established the monastery of Burgh Castle near Yarmouth. Abbot of the community at Cnoberesburg, Suffolk, England in the 640s, a house founded by his brother Fursey. During a war between the Mercians and Anglo-Saxons c.650, the house was destroyed, the brothers killed, captured or dispersed. Foillan ransomed back his brothers, collected the surviving relics, books and liturgical equipage from the house, and travelled to France.
He and his brothers were welcomed and encouraged in their evangelization by King Clovis II. Foillan founded a monastery at Fosses, diocese of Liege, Belgium, c.653 on land donated by Saint Itta of Nivelles and Saint Gertrude of Nivelles. He served as its abbot, and the area around it grew to the modern town of Le Roeulx, Belgium. Chaplain and spiritual director at the house founded by Saint Gertrude. Evangelized the Brabants in the region. Popular preacher and devoted pastor to his people. Murdered with three companions on the road by bandits; as he was travelling on Church business, he is often considered a martyr. His remaining brother, Saint Ultan, then took over as abbot of Fosses.
- murdered 31 October 655 in the forest near Nivelles, Belgium
- bodies found three months later
- buried at the abbey of Fosses, Belgium
- Irish bishop with a palm of martyrdom
- carrying hot coals in his vestment for incense
- kneeling, pierced by a spear
- one of a group of travellers beaten with a club
- praying before the church while the city burns
- refusing the cup at the table of Pepin to show his refusal of worldly things
- with a crown at his feet to indicate his disdain for worldly things
- with a sword and palm of martyrdom
Pagan robbers bestowed upon thee the crown of martyrdom, O righteous Foillan, for thy life was a reproach to the impious and cruel men. Having laboured with thy holy brother, our Father Fursey, in East Anglia and later in the Netherlands, pray to God for us, we beseech thee, that both in word and deed our lives may be a missionary witness, that we may be found worthy of His great mercy. – Orthdox dismissal hymn on the feast of Saint Foillan
- “Saint Foillan of Fosses“. CatholicSaints.Info. 14 November 2016. Web. 25 February 2017. <>