(or Gall) was born in the year 550, just eight years before
Saint Comgall founded his famous monastery at Bangor. Little is
known of the boyhood of Gall except that it is generally thought
that he showed great piety and interest in the Christian faith.
As a young man he went to study under Comgall of Bangor. And
here it should be noted that the monastery at Bangor (image of
ruins, below) had become renowned throughout Europe as a great
centre of Christian learning. Because of the great learning at
Bangor, Ireland became known as "the land of Saints and
Scholars". Missionaries went out from Bangor Abbey to all parts
of Ireland, the British Isles, and the Continent.
St. Malachy’s Wall, Bangor Abbey,
Bangor, Co. Down. This wall is the only
remaining evidence for the early Medieval
monastery at Bangor. © Crown copyright
(Reproduced with the permission of the
Controller of HMSO).
Studying in Bangor at the same time as Gall was Columbanus, to
whose honour the parish church in Ballyholme on the other side
of Bangor is dedicated. We might say that Columbanus had become
a sort of right hand man of Saint Comgall, and that he felt a
great call to missionary adventure. And so he laid before the
Abbott Comgall his request to be set free for this work.
Comgall was loath to part with one who had become so great a
help and comfort to him; but realising that he had no right to
consider only his own convenience, he gave his consent, and
Columbanus together with twelve companions, the most noted of
whom was probably Gall, set out about the year 589, bidding a
life-long farewell to home and friends in order to face unknown
difficulties and dangers in the extension of God’s Kingdom on
Columbanus, Gall and their companions settled for a while in
Switzerland at Lake Constance. After a while Columbanus felt an
urge to go into Italy, but Gall was taken sick of a fever, and
couldn’t go with him, apart from the fact that he was more
anxious for a life of solitude.
Recovering from his illness, Gall fixed upon a quiet place on
the River Steinach for his life of solitude. Having begun with a
three day fast there, he erected a small stone hut or cell for
prayer, an oratory after the manner usual in Ireland. And so
began the abbey (below) and the town of Saint Gall. Cells were
soon added for twelve monks whom Gall carefully instructed.
Gall was soon known in Switzerland as a powerful preacher. He
is said to have thrown down images to heathen gods, and exhorted
the worshippers of these images to return to the true God. As a
result of Gall’s work, practically the whole of Switzerland is
thought to have embraced the Christian faith.
the See of Constance became vacant, the clergy who assembled to
elect a new Bishop were unanimously in favour of Saint Gall on
account of his superior learning and sanctity. He, however,
refused, pleading that the election of a stranger would be
contrary to Church law, but proposed his deacon John, who was
duly elected and consecrated Bishop.
time later, in the year 625, on the death of Eustasius, who was
abbott of Luxeuil, a monastery founded by Saint Columbanus, six
members of that community, all Irishmen, were sent by the monks
to request Saint Gall to undertake the government of the
monastery. He definitely refused to quit his life of solitude,
and undertake any office of rank which might involve him in the
cares of the world. He was then an old man, and probably felt
himself unable to cope with the duties of high office.
The Legend of Saint Gall
legend about Saint Gall in his solitary life has become well
known. The story tells how a bear became St. Gall’s sole friend
in the closing years of his life, and that the bear used to
carry logs to the saint so that he could light his fire. The
bear has now become the coat of arms (below, on coin) for the
town of St. Gallen in Switzerland, and the bear carrying the
logs is depicted on the wall of the great Cathedral there, as it
is in the parish church at Carnalea .
Gall died on 16th October in the year 645, at the age of 95, and
that date – 16th October – is now honoured in Carnalea parish
each year as Saint Gall’s Day.
assiduous preacher of the Gospel, a skilful trainer of people in
the work of evangelisation, and a man of remarkable holiness of
his life, Saint Gall left an abiding mark on the country in
which he worked. His memory has long been revered in the
locality of his labours he became known and honoured as the
Apostle of Switzerland.
Troparion of the Saint, in Tone 8
As a companion of the Great Columban
thou didst travel throughout the lands of the Franks, o father
thy ascetic life contrasting with that of the worldly prelates
whom thou didst encounter.
Open to us, we pray thee, the treasures of sacrifice and
that we too may attain the joy of eternal salvation