Saturday, July 21, 2012


With a pair of shoes and a prayer
For the paralyzed and those who have difficulty walking, or simply for children learning to walk, the tradition among local believers is to place a pair of shoes on the tomb of Saint Erkembode in the Cathédrale Notre Dame in Saint-Omer, Pas-de-Calais. As soon as the shoes are collected and donated to charity, more appear. Saint Erkembode, known as the "saint qui fait marcher" (the saint who makes one walk) was a late 7th- and early 8th-century Benedictine monk originally from Ireland. He became abbot of the Saint Bertin monastery, and also succeeded Saint Omer as bishop of the diocese of Thérouanne. (What is now the city of Saint-Omer was originally a community called Sithiu, built around a church which had been founded by the monks Audomar (Omer) and Bertin in the 7th century.)

The diocese of Thérouanne was sizable, going from Ypres to the valley of the Somme River; Erkembode travelled it extensively attending to his pastoral flock, which probably accounts for his being associated with the effort of walking. He himself died paralyzed; thus the offering of shoes, a custom dating back to his death in 742, when the present cathedral was only a small primitive church. Shoes are also sometimes placed there for depressed people with the hope that it will help them step out of their depression, a sort of paralytic state.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

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