The Mass of Saint Giles

The miracle depicted has been set before the high altar of the Abbey of Saint-Denis near Paris. Many of the objects shown can be proved to have existed in the church. This is the only surviving representation of the church as it was in about 1500.

Charles Martel (?) (kneeling left) could not bring himself to confess a sin. He asked Saint Giles to pray for him. While Giles was celebrating Mass, an angel placed on the altar a paper on which was written the king's sin and his pardon, dependent on his repentance. The incident is said to have taken place in Orléans in 719. In some forms of the legend Charlemagne replaces Martel.

This and 'Saint Giles and the Hind' are part of an altarpiece which included 'Episodes from the Life of a Bishop Saint' and the 'Baptism of Clovis' (both in Washington).

Key facts

Artist dates
active about 1500
Full title
The Mass of Saint Giles
Date made
about 1500
Medium and support
Oil on oak
62.3 × 46 cm
Acquisition credit
Presented by the Art Fund, 1933
Inventory number
Location in Gallery

Other paintings in the group: Two Panels from an Altarpiece

Master of Saint Giles
about 1500
Master of Saint Giles: 'Saint Giles and the Hind'