Saints of the Day – 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

Born in Ireland; died at Arbon, Switzerland, c.640. Saint Gall studied at Bangor under Saints Comgall and Columban(us), became versed in Scripture, and was ordained. He was one of the 12 who accompanied Saint Columbanus to Gaul (France) and helped him found the abbey of Luxeuil. He continued to follow Columbanus into exile in 610 and then to Austrasia, where he preached with little success in the region around Lake Zurich, and for two years in the area near Bregenz.

When Columbanus went to Italy in 612, Gall remained behind because of ill health and on his recovery became a hermit on the Steinach River, attracting numerous disciples. In time, Saint Gall Monastery occupied this site and during the Middle Ages was a leading center of literature, the arts, and music.

According to one story Columbanus and Gall parted ways because the leader suspected Gall of malingering, and imposed on him a penance, which Gall faithfully observed, of not celebrating Mass during the continuance of Columbanus’s life.

Reputedly he was twice offered bishoprics by King Sigebert, whose betrothed he had freed of a demon. He is also reported to have been offered the abbacy of Luxeuil on the death of Saint Eustace but declined, to remain a hermit. He died sometime between 627 and 645 at Arbon, Switzerland, and is considered the apostle of that country (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).

In later times many legends grew up about him which had little basis in fact. He was not, for instance, the founder of the renowned monastery which bore his name; this was inaugurated about a century after his death, on the site of his settlement, and is now represented by the cathedral at Sankt Gallen and the very famous monastic library there (Attwater, Encyclopedia, Joynt).

In art, Saint Gall is portrayed as an abbot blessing a bear that brings him a log of wood. He may be shown holding a hermit’s tau staff with the bear or carrying a loaf and a pilgrim’s staff (Roeder). Gall is venerated as an apostle of Switzerland and as the patron of geese and poultry (Roeder).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 2 August 2020. Web. 24 November 2020. <>