Ghislain, Saint, confessor and anchorite in Belgium; b. in the first half of the seventh century; d. at Saint-Ghislain (Ursidongus), October 9, c. 680. He was probably of German origin. Ghislain lived in the province of Hainault (Belgium) in the time of St. Amand (d. 679) and Saints Waudru, Aldegonde, and Madelberte. With two unknown disciples he made a clearing in the vicinity of Castrilocus (now Mons, in Hainault), taking up later his abode at a place called Ursidongus, where he built an oratory or chapel dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul. Aubert, Bishop of Cambrai, summoned him to the episcopal presence in order to sound the intentions of this almost unknown hermit, but he afterwards accorded him efficient protection. During his visit to Cambrai Ghislain spent some time in the villa of Roisin and received as a gift the estates of Celles and Hornu. He soon entered into relations with St. Waudru, who was induced by him to build a monastery at Castrilocus, his former place of refuge. It is probable that Ghislain influenced the religious vocation of St. Aldegonde, Abbess of Maubeuge, also of St. Madelberte and St. Aldetrude, of whom the first was the sister and the last two the daughters of St. Waudru. One day Aldegonde, in her monastery of Maubeuge, had a vision in which, according to her biographer, the death of St. Amand, Bishop of Tongres, was revealed to her. Ghislain visited the saint in her villa of Mairieu, near Maubeuge, and explained to her that the vision was an announcement of her own approaching death. The intercourse between Ghislain and Aldegonde brought about a perfect understanding between Maubeuge and the monastery founded at Ursidongus under Ghislain’s direction. St. Waudru rewarded her counsellor with a portion of the villa of Frameries and of the oratory of St-Quentin, comprised within the boundaries of the villa of Quaregnon. Ghislain died at Ursidongus, and the monastery which he had founded took his name. The relics of the saint were first disinterred c. 929. They were transferred to Grandlieu, near Quaregnon, about the end of the tenth century or the beginning of the eleventh, and in 1025 Gerard I, Bishop of Cambrai, removed them to Cateau-Cambresis. They were visited several times in the course of the Middle Ages by the Bishops of Cambrai. In 1647 they were removed to St-Ghislain, of which place our saint is patron. His feast is celebrated October 9, and his intercession is sought to ward off convulsions from children. In iconography he is frequently represented with a bear or bear’s cub beside him. This is an allusion to the popular legend which relates that a bear, pursued in the chase by King Dagobert, sought refuge with Ghislain and later showed him the place where he should establish a monastery. Moreover, the site of the saint’s cella was called Ursidongus, “bear’s den”.
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