Gudula

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Saint Gudula of Brabant
Gudula.jpg
From New York Public Library, MA 092, fol. 251, Haarlem Gradual of 1494, depiction of Saint Gudula bearing a lantern which the demon endeavors to extinguish
Born c. 646
Pagus of Brabant
Died 680-714
Hamme
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast 8 January; 19 January in the diocese of Ghent
Attributes depicted as a woman with lantern which the devil tries to blow out
Patronage Brussels; single laywomen

Saint Gudula was born in the pagus of Brabant (in present-day Belgium). According to her 11th-century biography (Vita Gudilae), written by a monk of the abbey of Hautmont between 1048 and 1051, she was the daughter of a duke of Lotharingia called Witger and Amalberga of Maubeuge. She died between 680 and 714.

Her name is connected to several places:

  • Moorsel (where she lived)
  • Brussels (where a chapter in her honour was founded in 1047)
  • Eibingen (where the relic of her skull is conserved).

In Brabant she is usually called Goedele or Goule; (Latin: Gudila, later Gudula, Dutch: Sinte Goedele, French: Sainte Gudule).

Life[edit]

The mother of Gudula, Saint Amalberga, embraced the religious life in the abbey of Maubeuge. She received the veil from the hands of St. Aubert, Bishop of Cambrai (d. about 668). Gudula had two sisters, St. Pharaildis and St. Reineldis, and one brother, Saint Emebertus (often confused with the bishop Ablebertus and Englebertus of Cambrai).

Gudula was educated in the abbey of Nivelles by her godmother, Gertrude of Nivelles. When Gertrude died, she moved back to her home at Moorsel, spending her time in good works and religious devotion. She frequently visited the church of Moorsel, situated about two miles from her parents' house.

Gudula died and was buried at Hamme (Flemish Brabant). Later her relics were removed to the church of St. Salvator in Moorsel, where the body was interred behind the altar. During the reign of Duke Charles of Lotharingia (977-992), the body of the saint was transferred to the chapel of Saint Gaugericus at Brussels. Lambert II, Count of Leuven, (d. 1054) founded a chapter in 1047 in honour of Saint Gudula. Bishop Gerardus I of Cambrai (d. 1051) led the translation of her relics to the church of Saint Michael in Brussels. The church later became the famous St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral.

In 1330, indulgences were granted to all who assisted in the decoration and completion of the church of St. Gudula at Brussels.

On 6 June 1579 the collegiate church was pillaged and wrecked by the Protestant Geuzen (Beggars), and the relics of the saint disinterred and scattered.

Veneration[edit]

Statue of Saint Gudula at St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral
  • The feast of Saint Gudula is generally celebrated on 8 January (the day she died according her hagiography). However, in the diocese of Ghent (where Moorsel is situated) her feast is held on 19 January.
  • Charlemagne made donations to the convent of Moorsel in her honour.
  • Although St. Michael is the patron of Brussels, St. Gudula is certainly the most venerated patroness. She is already depicted on a seal of the Church of St. Gudula of 1446 holding in her right hand a candle, and in her left a lamp, which a demon tries to extinguish. This refers to the legend that the saint went to church before cock-crow. The demon, wishing to stray her off the right way, extinguished the candle, but the saint obtained from God that her lantern should be rekindled.
  • The flower called tremella deliquescens, which bears fruit in the beginning of January, is known as Sinte Goedele's lampken (St. Gudula's lantern).
  • The woodcarvers who produced statues of the saints born in the Holy Roman Empire, often depicted St. Gudula with a taper in her hand, but this originates probably out of confusion with the Paris Saint Geneveva tradition. In Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in Brussels, she is shown with a lizard's tail coming from the back of her robe.
  • The skull of St. Gudula is conserved in the Catholic Church of St. Hildegard in Eibingen, Germany.

Sources[edit]

Primary sources[edit]

Secondary sources[edit]

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