St. Eligius masters the golden era of giving back

By Diana Revelins

This is the first of a two-part presentation on St. Eligius and how the numismatic brotherhood is giving back to the hobby in Canada and worldwide.

Most numismatic enthusiasts know St. Eligius is the patron saint of this fun pastime, but how many actually know anything about him?

Grand Knight Scott Douglas, of the St. Eligius Brotherhood of Numismatists in Canada, gave a presentation at the National Postage Stamp and Coin Show, where he spoke about Eligius’s life. Douglas recently acquired the St. Eligius Numismatic Museum assets and had some pieces on display for all to examine.

“Eligius was a person, of course, before he became a saint,” Douglas points out. “He was a moneyer—and that, of course, is why he is the patron saint of numismatists, because of his ability to coin.”

The name Eligius is derived from the Latin word “eligere,” meaning “to choose.” Other forms of the name in other languages are Éloi (French), Eligio (Italian), Eligusz (Polish) and Eloy (Spanish).

Eligius was born in 588 AD near the city of Limoges, France, to an influential Gallo-Roman family, and he was raised with a strong faith in the Catholic religion. His father Eucherius soon recognized his son had a talent and apprenticed Eligius to Abbo the goldsmith, who was the mint master at Limoges. It wasn’t long before Eligius was sent to study under Babo, the royal treasurer of the palace of the Franks, ruled by King Clotaire II.

Legend has it Clotaire commissioned Eligius – recommended for this task by Babo – to make a golden throne, adorned with precious stones. Eligius presented the king with two thrones from the same amount of material—unheard of at the time because any other goldsmith would have kept anything extra.

“I’m going to challenge that theory of the two thrones because I’m wondering if that is really what happened,” says Douglas. “I believe it may possibly have been a saddle and not a throne. The throne that was Clotaire’s son’s (Dagobert l) when he became king, was made of iron. Why would Clotaire have two gold thrones and give his son an iron one?”

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