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Blessed Gil of Santarem

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A Portuguese Dominican : b. at Vaozela, diocese of Viseu, about 1185; d. at Santarem, 14 May, 1265. His father, Rodrigo Pelayo Valladaris, was governor of Coimbra and councillor of Sancho I. It was the wish of his parents that Gil should enter the ecclesiastical state, and the king was very lavish in best caving ecclesiastical benefices upon him. When he was still a boy, he already held prebends at Braga, Coimbra, Idanha, and Santarem. Gil, however, held no desire to be an ecclesiastic; his ambition was to become a famous physician. After devoting some time to the study of philosophy and medicine at Coimbra he set out for Paris, with the intention of perfecting himself in the science of medicine and obtaining the doctor's degree. If we may give credence to his unknown contemporaneous biographer, he was accosted on his journey by a courteous stranger who promised to teach the art of magic at Toledo. As payment, so the legend runs, the stranger required that Gil should make over his soul to the devil and sign the compact with his blood. Gil obeyed and after devoting himself seven years to the study of magic under the direction of Satan, went to Paris, easily obtained the degree of doctor of medicine, and performed many wonderful cures. One night while he was locked up in his library a gigantic knight, armed head to foot, appeared to him and, with his sword drawn, demanded that Gil should change his wicked life. The same spectre appeared a second time, and threatened to kill Gil if he would not reform. Gil now repented of his evil ways, burnt his books of magic and returned to Portugal, where he took the habit of St. Dominic in the newly-erected monastery at Palencia, about 1221. Shortly after, his superiors sent him to the Dominican house at Scallabis, the present Santarem. Here he led a life of prayer and penance, and for seven years his mind was tormented by the thought of the compact which was still in the hands of Satan. Finally, his biographer narrates, the devil was compelled to surrender the compact and place it before the altar of the Blessed Virgin. Gil returned to Paris to study theology and on his return to Portugal became famous for his piety and learning. He was twice elected provincial of his order in Spain. Benedict XIV ratified his cult on 9 March, 1748.

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