Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Gall, Abbot

mural of Saint Gall; date unknown, artist unknown; the nave the Church of Saint Venantius, Pfärrenbach, Horgenzell, Germany; photographed in 2006 by Andreas Praefcke; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Saint Gall, who became a holy Abbot and Confessor, was born in Ireland, in the middle of the sixth century. His parents desired that he should become a perfect servant of the Almighty; hence, they gave him, while he was yet very young, into tne charge of Saint Columban, who was Abbot of the monastery of Bencor. Gall, who had the same wish as his parents, went gladly to the holy Abbot; and, as he possessed an excellent mind, in addition to inclinations towards all that was good, he made in a short time great progress in virtue and knowledge. Columban was greatly rejoiced at this; and, as he had resolved to leave his home, and endeavor to awaken in other countries the love of solitude, prayer and austerity, he chose some of those who lived in his monastery to accompany him. Among these was Gall, with whom and a few others, Columban traveled from Ireland to England, and thence to France. The king who reigned at that period, received him and his companions very graciously, and appointed a place on the boundaries of the dioceses of Toul and Besancon, where they, according to their wish, might serve God in solitude and prayer. Saint Columban built a monastery and a church there, and gave to those who wished to live under his direction certain rules by which to regulate their conduct. Saint Gall was the first who adopted these rules, and conformed his life so perfectly to them that he served the others as an example of zeal, penitence and retirement, and incited them to follow in his steps. The holy community had passed many years with their venerable teacher in this solitude, when they were driven from their quiet retreat by the persecution of Brunehault, a restless and ambitious woman. Hence Saint Columban went with his religious to Austrasia, under the protection of King Theodebert, who gave him permission to choose a place for his abode. While going about to select a place, the Saint came to the Lake of Constance, where a wild heathen people were living. Saint Gall, seeing their idolatrous customs, preached to them with great zeal, representing to them their blindness in worshipping lifeless wood or stone as the true God. Finding, however, that they gave no ear to him, he threw some of their idols from the altars, broke them to pieces, and cast them into the lake. The idolaters, enraged at this, determined to kill the apostolic man. He, however, advised by Saint Columban, fled and went with his teacher to the hamlet of Arbona, or Arbon, where they found a holy priest named Willemar, who pointed out a place to them upon which stood a chapel, which had been erected in honor of Saint Aurelia, but had been desecrated by the heathen, who had placed their idols in it. Gall, filled with holy zeal, began forthwith to preach to the people, who came streaming thither, and placed the nothingness of their gods so clearly before them that many became converted to the true faith. After this he cleansed the chapel, which Saint Columban then consecrated, and erected an altar in it for the celebration of the Divine mysteries. Around the chapel were built cells as dwelling-places for those who desired to live in retirement. For a time all went well, and the number of Christians, as well as that of the hermits, daily increased. But not long after, Gunzo, the reigning duke of that part of the country, became incensed against the servants of God, and commanded them to leave his domains immediately. Columban resolved to go into Italy, and intended to take his disciple Gall with him; but God visited the latter with so severe a fever that he was forced to remain behind with some companions. After having regained his health, Saint Gall returned to the pious priest Willemar, who assigned him another place in the desert as his abode. Although this seemed to be a dwelling fit only for wild beasts, and was also haunted by evil spirits, Saint Gall feared neither, but went thither with his companions. Erecting a cross, he passed three nights in fasting and prayer, calling with confidence on God and the Divine Mother, and thus drove all the spirits of hell away. The wild beasts also left, excepting one bear, which greatly disturbed the servants of the Most High. One day, when the bear was in the act of carrying away the little food of the hermits, Saint Gall, inspired by God, addressed him, commanding him to lay the food down again, and bring from the forest the wood which was needed by the hermits. God, who, upon Josue’s prayer, had commanded the sun to suspend his course, ordained that the bear should obey the Saint. He dragged a large tree from the neighboring forest to the place where Saint Gall was, who, as a reward, gave him a loaf of bread and permission to remain, but on condition that he would not harm any of the monks nor any other human being. The bear obeyed this command, to the great astonishment of all who came to see the Saint, or who lived in the desert.

When the place was entirely free from wild beasts and evil spirits, Saint Gall desired to arrange everything as Saint Columban had done at their former retreat, as he and his companions had determined to serve God most faithfully in watching, fasting and praying. But, when they were about to begin their work, messengers from the above-named duke Gunzo came, and in his name begged pardon for the wrong he had done them, and entreated Saint Gall to come to the duke and release his daughter from the devil, who had taken possession of her. The holy man did as he was requested, and persuaded the princess to promise God, in gratitude for the grace bestowed upon her, to serve Him in virginal purity until her end. Gunzo, to show his gratitude to Saint Gall, wished to give him the Episcopal See of Constance, which, however, the Saint refused to accept. As soon as he returned to the desert, he built a church there, surrounded by twelve cells: this was the beginning of the celebrated Abbey of Saint Gall, which still exists in Switzerland, and was the origin of the town which bears the same name. As soon as the cells were finished, Saint Gall instituted among his disciples the rules of Saint Columban. He himself continued his holy life until his eightieth year, without in the least abating, either for sickness or the feebleness of age, his austerities towards himself. Shortly before his end, he was invited by Saint Willemar to preach at the dedication of a church. The Saint accepted the invitation, and preached with deep emotion, to the great edification of the people. Immediately after the service, he was seized by a fever, and died most peacefully a fortnight later. By means of his holy body many miracles were wrought, as well before it was transported to the desert as while it was buried there, in the church which he had erected. Those who visit this church are favored by the Almighty with many gifts, through the intercession of the Saint.

Practical Considerations

• Saint Gall, a servant of the Most High, commanded a wild beast of the forest no more to disturb or hurt any one; and the animal, not endowed with reason, obeyed. God, your Lord and Master, gives many commands to you; to you, who possess reason; you, who call yourself a servant of the Lord, and who must be such indeed, if you expect to go to heaven. And yet you will not obey, although this God can and surely will punish your disobedience. What can you say in excuse for this? The wild beast had nothing to expect from Saint Gall, except perhaps some food. To you God promises heaven, if you obey Him. Do you not deserve hell for not obeying so generous a Master, who would reward your short obedience with eternal life? If the reward does not animate you, think of the punishment. God has punished already, for thousands of years, so many of His creatures in hell for their disobedience. He also threatens to punish you there, if you do not obey Him. Should this not be powerful enough to incite you to obedience, you will surely deserve no pity when you are cast into that place, where already so many suffer for their disobedience. If you do not wish to be numbered with these unhappy ones, obey your God in future. He is your Lord; show yourself towards Him as an obedient servant. To pious and faithful servants, He gives heaven. Servants who do not obey, are neither pious nor faithful. Useless and disobedient servants are cast by Him into outer darkness, and are punished with horrible pains. “Well done, good and faithful servant; because you hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things: enter you into the joy of thy Lord; but the unprofitable servant cast ye out into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25) “And the servant, who knew the will of his Lord, and prepared not himself, and did not according to His will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” (Luke 12)

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Gall, Abbot”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 10 May 2018. Web. 18 November 2019. <>