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St Gilles

ST GILLES, a town of southern France, in the department of Gard, on the canal from the Rhone to Cette, 125 m. S.S.E. of Nimes by road. Pop. (1906) 5292. In the middJe ages St Gilles, the ancient Vallis Flaviana, was the seat of an abbey founded towards the end of the 7th century by St Aegidius (St Gilles). It acquired wealth and power under the counts of Toulouse, who added to their title that of counts of St Gilles. The church, which survives, was founded in 1116 when the abbey was at the height of its prosperity. The lower part of the front (12th century) has three bays decorated with columns and bas-reliefs, and is the richest example of Romanesque art in Provence. The rest of the church is unfinished, only the crypt (12th century) and part of the choir, containing a spiral staircase, being of interest. Besides the church there is a Romanesque house serving as presbytery. The decadence of the abbey dates from the early years of the 13th century when the pilgrimage to the tomb of the saint became less popular; the monks also lost the patronage of the counts of Toulouse, owing to the penance inflicted by them on Raymond VI. in 1209 for the murder of the papal legate Pierre de Castelnau. St Gilles was the seat of the first grand priory of the Knights Hospitallers in Europe (12th century) and was of special importance as their place of embarkation for the East. In 1226 the countship of St Gilles was united to the crown. In 1562 the Protestants ravaged the abbey, which they occupied till 1622, and in 1774 it was suppressed.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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