The Acta Sanctorum dates St. Hilarian of Espalion as 8th or 9th century and cites the 17th-century Gallican Martyrology for his martyrdom at the hands of "the impious." The author of the martyrology also reports the tradition that Hilarian carried his severed head to a spring, washed it clean, and took it to his "mother" (possibly meaning the local church). Ever after, locals have called the spring "Fontsange," or "sacred spring," and have considered it a source of miracles.1
The "impious" of the martyrology are identified as Saracens by local legend. Other texts, which I have not seen, are said to recount the saint's escape from the Saracens by crossing the river Lot using his cloak as a boat. A stained-glass window in the church in Espalion pictures this event.
In portraits, St. Hilarian carries his head in his hands, as at right. As a priest, he is usually portrayed in Mass vestments: a chasuble with a Y-shaped cross over an alb and cassock, again as at right.
Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University
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NOTES1 Acta Sanctorum, June vol. 2, 1068-69.