Saints and Holy People

Find out about their lives and how they changed the world

Saint Gildas the Wise (c. 500–570)

Saint Gildas the Wise (c. 500–570)

Patron saint of several churches and monasteries in Brittany, France

Feast day: January 29

Saint Gildas the Wise was born on the banks of the River Clyde in what is now Scotland. He was cared for and educated at a monastery in Wales. He became friends with many exceptional men who would one day become saints, and he excelled in the classroom.

Gildas became a monk and moved to Ireland to continue his education and give his life more fully to God. There he was ordained a priest. He returned to northern Britain but was called back to Ireland by the High King. There he evangelized, established churches and monasteries, and had many miracles credited to him. 

After a pilgrimage to Rome, he decided to emigrate to Brittany, France, where he became a hermit. However, students of the spiritual life found him and begged him to teach them. He founded a monastery that eventually was called Saint-Gildas-de-Rhuys in Britanny. He wrote many works geared toward monks, urging them to strive to achieve holy lifestyles. The most famous of his writings was a critique of British rulers, exhorting them to leave sin behind and embrace the true Christian faith.

Gildas is thought to have died at Rhuys on January 29, 570. According to his wishes, his body was placed on a boat and allowed to drift. Three months later, on May 11, men from Rhuys found the ship in a creek, with the body of Gildas still intact. They took the body back to Rhuys and buried it there. The body of Saint Gildas is now buried behind the altar in the church of Saint Gildas de Rhuys. 

(Image by Romary, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons)