Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gall (550?-645?)

GALL, Saint (550?–645?), originally named Cellach or Caillech, abbot and the apostle of the Suevi and the Alemanni, appears to have been the son of Cethernach, an Irishman of noble lineage, of the sept of Hy-Cennsealach, his mother being, it is asserted, a queen of Hungary. He was uterine brother to St. Deicola [q. v.] He was brought up in St. Comgall's monastery of Bangor, near the bay of Carrickfergus, by St. Columban [q. v.], was well instructed in grammar, learning both Latin and Greek, in poetry, and in the scriptures, was ordained priest on reaching the canonical age, and was distinguished by his holiness of life. When Columban went to Gaul, probably in 585, Gall accompanied him, and followed him when he was driven from Luxeuil. During his master's stay at Arbon and Bregenz Gall took an especially prominent part in the mission, and his ability to preach to the people in their own tongue seems to have made him the spokesman of the party. He burnt a place of idolatrous worship, and threw the offerings of the worshippers into the lake; and at Bregenz publicly destroyed their images, which were held in much veneration. The mission was chiefly supplied with food by his labour, for he made nets and caught much fish. One night while he was fishing he heard in the stillness the voice of the demon of the mountains crying from the heights to the demon of the lakes, and bidding him arise and help to turn out the strangers who were casting down their altars. The lake demon answered that one of them was even then troubling him, but he had no power to break his nets or do him harm, because he was for ever crying on a divine name. When Gall heard these voices he adjured the demons by the name of the Lord, and hastened to tell the abbot, who at once summoned the brethren to the church. Before they began to chant they heard the terrific sound of the voices of demons wailing on the mountain tops (Walafrid Strabo, i. 7). When Columban left Bregenz in 612 Gall remained behind, for he was sick of a fever. The story that Columban believed his sickness to be feigned, and as a mark of displeasure ordered him not to celebrate mass until Columban's death, is not mentioned by Jonas, Columban's almost contemporary biographer. After Gall's recovery he went to stay with his friend the priest Willimar at Arbon, and there continued his preaching to the Suevi and Alemanni. Desiring probably to establish a separate centre for mission work, he retired to the forest and built a cell on the river Steinach. There he was soon joined by twelve others, and their little cluster of huts was the origin of the famous monastery of St. Gall. The story of his casting out an evil spirit from the only daughter of Gunzo, duke of the Suevi, who was betrothed to Sigebert, king of the Austrasians, must be rejected with all the incidents consequent on it, for it is impossible to find a Sigebert to whom it can refer (Pagius, an. 614, No. 30). When Columban was dying in 615 he sent Gall his pastoral staff, probably as a token of affection, not as a sign that any prohibition was removed. Gall was summoned to Constance in 616 to take part in the election of a bishop, and went thither with his two deacons, John and Magnoald. He was unanimously elected to the bishopric, but declined it, and persuaded the assembly to accept John. The sermon which he preached at John's consecration is still extant. On the death of Eustace, abbot of Luxeuil, in 625, Gall was elected to succeed him, but refused the office. In 645 he was persuaded by Willibald to visit Arbon, and while there fell sick of a fever, of which he died after fourteen days' illness on 16 Oct. He was buried at Arbon. The day of his death is usually the day of his commemoration, but 20 Feb. has also been appropriated to his memory. Although no materials exist for an exact estimate of the results of his work, it would not be too much to refer to him the evangelisation of the country between the Alps, the Aar, and the Lech. The new Bollandists propose as the chronology of his life that he was born in 554, ordained priest 584, followed Columban 590, built his cell 614, and died 627 (Acta SS. 7 Oct. ii. 881). The sermon preached at John's consecration is his only extant work. It is in Latin, and is printed by Canisius (Lect. Antiq. i. 785 sq., ed. Basnage). Dempster, who makes St. Gall a native of Albanic Scotland, attributes various works to him (Hist. Eccl. Gent. Scot. i. 299–301). The letter to Desiderius attributed to him by Tanner (Bibl. Brit. p. 307) appears to belong to Gallus, bishop of Clermont, consecrated 650 (Lanigan, ii. 439).

[Vita S. Columbani, Jonas, Acta SS. O. S. B. sæc. ii. 2 sq.; Vita S. Deicoli, Acta SS. Bolland. Jan. 18, ii. 563; Vita S. Galli ap. Pertz, Mon. Germ. Hist. i. 1, and Acta SS. Bolland, with commentary. This life is supposed to be by Weten (fl. 771), master of Walafrid Strabo, who wrote his Vita S. Galli, Acta SS. O. S. B. sæc. ii. 215, about 833, see Hist. Lit. de la France, iv. 479; Vita S. Magni, Canisius Lect. Antiq. i. 655, not valuable; Lanigan's Eccl. Hist. of Ireland, ii. 287, 432, 438; Ozanam's Etudes Germ. ii. 122; Montalembert's Monks of the West, ii. 429; art. in Dict. Christ. Biog., by the Rev. J. Gammack.]

W. H.