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St. Eligius, The Patron Saint of Coin Collectors and Numismatists
Tom Babinszki, WINS#919

On the first of last December, I read a tweet about St. Eligius, who is the patron saint of numismatists. I have to admit, I have never heard of either St. Eligius, or that coin collectors have a patron saint. I started to dig into it a little bit, and I found that probably I was the only one who never knew about him. There is some good and also conflicting information out there about him.

St. Eligius medal

The picture is courtesy of John Roberts, CoinWorld columnist

St. Eligius, also known as St. Eloi was born around 590 near Limoges, and known to have died on December 1, 660 where his feast day originates from.

I first turned to the Catholic Encyclopedia, as he was canonized in the Catholic church. I found his record, however, I was not able to find when he was canonized. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, he is the patron of: goldsmiths, blacksmiths, and all workers in metal, as well as cabmen. He is often depicted with the tools of metal workers, though other depictions exist as well. I have not found any catholic sources, which would name him the patron of coin collectors or numismatists, like other sites do. Under his patronage, we can find horses, knife makers, miners, Royal Australian electrical and mechanical engineers, just to name a few.

It appears that the source of being the patron saint of coin collectors is not established anywhere, rather as word of mouth it is referenced as a known fact, going back to many centuries, the first reference I found was from the 1400's.

His life does not leave much to question about it though, in an article by Mike Davis in the Numismatics International Bulletin (Vol. 34 #7) writes that he was a mintmaster in the Limoges Mint, and designed and minted 47 coins. Some of these coins have his own name as part of the legend. There are more than 122 different medals about St. Eligius.

Besides minting coins, he was appointed a bishop in 641. he built churches, monasteries and converted pagans to Christianity.

Over the centuries he has been remembered and respected in many ways, on coins, medals, church paintings or stamps.

In 1989, Claude Proulx founded the Knights of St. Eligius in Quebec, one of their charities is the promotion of numismatic knowledge among youth.

There is a great amount of materials about St. Eligius, below I will reference a few more interesting ones. As I was reading through much of the content, it appears that there is quite a bit of repetition, and very little original sources.

One of the first biographies about him is in "The Golden Legend or Lives Of The Saints", compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, 1275.

Gerald Tebben wrote a short biography and an overview of the most known medals on CoinWorld site.

Helfried Ehrend, published a book, "Eligius auf Münzen, Medaillen und sonstigen Sammelobjekten" which is a 250-page collection of pictures, coins and medals attributed to St. Eligius.

There are materials in other languages as well. In the Hungarian Numizmatikai Kozlony, Vol. 94-95 (1994-1995), Janos Rayman wrote extensively about the tradition and medals of St. Eligius. In this article, he mentions that starting from the 1400's, Hungarian goldsmith guilds depicted St. Eligius on at least 19 different stamps.


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