St. Foillan of Fosses, Abbot
Born in Ireland; died in Belgium, c. 655. Among the brothers of
(f.d. January 16)
were Foillan and
(f.d. May 1),
went to England with Fursey about 630. There they built a monastery at
Burgh Castle in Suffolk near Yarmouth, and were missionary monks under
him among the East Angles.
When Fursey departed for Gaul, Foillan succeeded him as abbot, but the
destruction of their monastery and the depredations of the Mercians
under Penda, drove Foillan and Ultan to follow their brother across the
They were welcomed to Neustria by King Clovis II.
Abbess Blessed Ida of Nivelles
(f.d. May 8)
gave Foillan land at Fosses, Belgium, where he set
up a monastery and did missionary work among the Brabanters of the
surrounding country, on whom he made a lasting impression.
He kept up close relations with Saint Gertrude's establishment at
Nivelles, and this was the occasion of his untimely end: It was when
returning from saying Mass at Nivelles that he was set upon by robbers
in the forest of Seneffe and murdered with three companions. Their
bodies were not found until nearly three months later.
Ultan succeeded Foillan as abbot of Fosses, and he too was revered as a
In September every seventh year at Fosses, there is a spectacular
procession, called the March of Foillan, to honour the saint. Foillan's
relics are honoured by an official mounted guard and salutes are fired
seven times along the route of the procession.
Foillan is depicted as a bishop with two armed men under his feet.
Sometimes he is shown (1) refusing the cup at the table of Pepin; (2)
carrying hot coals in his vestment for incense; (3) praying before the
church while the city burns; (4) kneeling, pierced by a spear; (5)
beaten with a club; or (6) with sword and palm
Foillan is the patron of children's nurses, dentists, surgeons, and
He is widely honoured in both Ireland and
Troparion of St Foillan tone 8
Pagan robbers bestowed upon thee the crown of martyrdom, O righteous
for thy life was a reproach to the impious and cruel men.
Having laboured with thy holy brother, our Father Fursey,
in East Anglia and later in the Netherlands,
pray to God for us, we beseech thee, that both in word and deed
our lives may be a missionary witness,
that we may be found worthy of His great mercy.
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content © 2008, Ambrose Mooney
layout © 2008, Kathleen Hanrahan and Mo! Langdon
Page last updated: 22 October 2008
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