Gistel is the cradle of the veneration for St. Godelieve,
one of the most revered saints in Flanders and the north of France.
Godelieve was born in the second half of the XIth century in a noble family from the County of Boulogne. She married Bertolf, lord of Gistel in a marriage of convenience.
Godelieve was refined and well-educated, whereas Bertolf was a rough guy, and the marriage turned wrong. The husband remained absent during the three days of the marriage celebration. Godelieve lived in loneliness and humiliation since Bertolf did not care at all for her. He lived in his own castle and exiled her wife to his mother's domain, where she was sheltered in a farm by the villagers. Her condition there was worst than a maid-servant. Godelieve escaped and went back to her parents, who complained at the Bishop of Tournai and the Count of Flanders. Bertolf was ordered to take her back and to behave correctly with her. Bertolf put on an "accident" during a short trip to Bruges: on 6 July 1070, Godelieve was strangled by Bertolt's henchmen and her body was thrown down into a well. Godelieve was eventually buried in the chapel of Bertolf's castle.
Bertolf remarried and his second wife got a blind daughter named Edith. Thirteen years later, the second wife died. Two miracles opened Bertolf's eyes. First his daughter Edith could see again after a visit to the well. Then Bertolf had a shirt made from a linnen piece of tissue, and when he recieved it, it was a seemless shirt. He recognized the hand of Godelieve who was a very talented dressmaker.
Bertolf put on a penitence habit, repented and did several pilgrimages, after which he retired in a monastery.
Drogo, monk at the former St. Winnok abbey in Bergues, wrote her biography, Vita Godeliph. Drogo's work was the base of the canonization of Godelieve, proclaimed by Radbod II, Bishop of Tournai-Noyon, on 30 July 1084.
Her great love for the poor and the patience she had in her suffering gave her the status of saint.
The tradition says that Edith founded the women's monastery of Putte (in Dutch, put means well) on the place of Godelieve's martyrdom. The abbey was sacked by the Protestants (Geuzen) in 1578 and a new monastery was built inside the city of Bruges. A priory was reconstituted in Gistel in 1891 and conferred the rank of abbey (Abdij ten Putte) on 8 November 1934. The St. Godelieve's Museum was opened in the abbey in June 1987.
The procession celebrating St. Godelieve (Godelieveprocessie) takes place every year in July since (at least) 1459. The modern procession, requires dozens of actors and floats playing the life, martyrdom and miracles of the saint.
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Das westflämische Städchen Gistel is bekannt für die Heilige Godelieve. Godelieve wurde im Jahre 1070 im Auftrag ihres Ehemannes Bertolf ermordet.
Sie kam aus Boonen (das heutige Boulogne in Frankreich); er war aus Gistel gebürtig. Beide gehörten adligen Familien an. In 1084 wurde Godelieve vom Bischof von Tournai heiliggesprochen. Ihre Liebe zu den Armen und ihre grosse Leidensgeduld gewärhrten ihr diesen Status.
Auf der Stelle der Märtyrertodes des Heiligen wurde am Ende des 11. Jahrhunderts eine Abtei von Benedktinerinnen errichtet. Die Abdei is ein beliebter Wallfahrtsort, vor allm im Juli. Die Abtei verfügt auch über einen modernen Empfangsraum mit Cafetaria und ein Museum.
Die neogotische Kirche 'Unserer Lieben Frau' in der Stadtmitte hat ein schönes Godelieveschiff. In den vier Nischen sehen Sie die Reliquienschreine der Heiligen, ihre Grabstätte und einen Wasserbrunnen.
Seit Jahrhunderten geht am ersten Sontag nach dem 5. Juli um 16 Uhr zieht jährlich die Godelieveprozession durch die Strassen von Gistel. Die Prozession gestaltet Geschichte und Legende. Etwa tausend Statisten stellen das leben und den Märtyerertod der Heiligen in einer Reihe singender, tanzender und musizierender Gruppen und zierlicher Prunkwagen dar.