Saint Bavo with falcon and sword, by Geertgen tot Sint Jans, late 15th century
|Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Eastern Catholic Churches, Western Rite Orthodox communities|
|Attributes||Greaves, other military or aristocratic garb, falcon, sword|
|Patronage||Ghent; Haarlem; Lauwe|
Wild and selfish as a youth, he was known to have sold servants to local nobles as slaves. He contracted a beneficial marriage, and had a daughter through it. He was a soldier; however, he led an undisciplined and disorderly life. Shortly after the death of his wife, Bavo decided to reform himself upon hearing a sermon preached by a monk, Saint Amand. Bavo was struck after the sermon at the emptiness of material objects and donated his wealth to the poor after he converted to Christianity at Amand's convent. Bavo traveled with Amand for some time in his missionary work through France and Flanders. On one occasion, Bavo met a man whom he had sold years before. Wishing to atone for this earlier conduct, Bavo had the man lead him by chain to the town jail.
He built an abbey on his grounds and became a monk. He distributed his belongings to the poor and lived as a recluse, first in a hollow tree, later in a cell in the forest near the Abbey. He died at St. Bavo's Abbey in Ghent, in today's Belgium.
Bavo is the patron saint of Ghent and Lauwe, Belgium and Haarlem, the Netherlands. He is most often shown in Christian art as a knight with a sword and falcon. The most popular scene is the moment of his conversion, which has many stories attached to it. Because he is so often show with a falcon, he came to be considered the patron saint of falconry. In Ghent, in medieval times, taxes were paid on October 1, and for this reason Bavo is often shown holding a purse or money bag.
Several churches are dedicated to him, including:
- Saint Bavo Cathedral, in Ghent
- Sint-Bavokerk and Cathedral of Saint Bavo, both in Haarlem
- Sint-Bavokerk in Heemstede and Lauwe
- Saint Bavo Church and School, in Mishawaka, Indiana
- Sint-Bavokerk in Wilrijk
The conversion of Saint Bavo, Peter Paul Rubens, St Baafs, Ghent.
- Tait, William (1840). Tait's Edinburgh Magazine. W. Tait. p. 298.
- Butler, Alban, The Lives of the Saints, Vol. X,1866
- Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints. 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0-14-051312-4.
- (Italian) San Bavone di Gand
- Latin Saints of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Rome
- Acta S. Bavonis alias Alloini confessoris, Gandavensium patroni
- St. Bavo at the Christian Iconography web site.
- Vita Bavonis Confessoris Gandavensis (Life of Bavo, Confessor of Ghent, in Latin) in Monumenta Germaniae Historica