St. Hilarian of Espalion: The Iconography
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. An identical miracle is also credited to St. Raymond of Peñafort.

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


St. Hilarian (See the description page.)

St. Hilarian on the Back of a Roadside Cross (See the description page.)


  • Head held in hands
  • Chasuble over an alb and cassock


  • Sometimes called St. Hilarian of Perse



1 Acta Sanctorum 1068-69.