Gala torments a peasant and is converted by St. Benedict

Pocket Bard’s notes: I like the simplicity in this story, and how sometimes men of God can convert people without resorting to physical violence. I also like how Benedict never contradicts the peasant, even though it’s pretty clear that the peasant was lying to save himself from being tortured further. (Though Benedict does not, it appears, give him any property.)

Gala torments a peasant and is converted by St. Benedict
The Golden Legend, Volume I, trans. William Granger Ryan, p.190-191

In the days of Totila a Goth named Galla, an Arian heretic, resorted to the most monstrous cruelties against the Catholic church’s religious men. No cleric or monk who came face to face with him could escape death at his hands. One day, afire with the heat of greed and looking eagerly for plunder, he was inflicting various kinds of torture on a certain peasant, and the victim, unable to endure the pain, blurted out that he had put himself and his property under the protection of Benedict the servant of God. His tormentor believed this and allowed the suffering man a spell of relief, but, while desisting from his savage treatment of the peasant, had his arms bound with stout thongs and marched him ahead of his horse to find this Benedict who had taken over the man’s goods. The peasant, his arms tied behind him, led his oppressor to the holy man’s monastery and found him sitting at the door of his cell reading a book. The rustic said to Gall, who was following him fuming with anger, “This is Father Benedict, the one I spoke about.”

Galla looked up at the saint and, carried away by his perverse wrath, thought he would terrorize the monk as he was used to terrorizing others. He shouted at him: “Get up, get up, and return this fellow’s property to him!” Hearing this voice, the man of God looked up from his book and stared at Galla and the man who was held in bonds. When the saint glanced at the peasant’s arms, the thongs that held them miraculously fell off, more quickly than any man could have untied them. Galla, seeing the man who had been bound now standing free, was shaken at the sight of such power. He dismounted, fell to the ground, and bent his cruel, stiff neck at Benedict’s feet, commending himself to the holy man’s prayers. The saint hardly interrupted his reading, but called the monks and ordered them to take Galla inside, where he would receive a blessing and some food. When the Goth was brought back to him, Benedict admonished him to give up his insane cruelty. Galla took his leave and no longer dared to demand anything of the peasant whose bonds the saint had loosed, not with his hands but by a glance from his eyes.


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