Saint Odile (or Odilia and or Ottilia) is the name of two saints venerated in the Roman Catholic Church, both patronesses of good eyesight: Saint Odilia of Cologne (Feastday 18 July) and Saint Odilia of Alsace (Feastday 13 December), although according to the current liturgical calendar their feastdays are not officially commemorated.

Saint Odilia of Cologne

Legend has few details about Saint Odilia of Cologne. She is said to have lived in the 4th century and to have been the daughter of a ruler ("king") in Britain. Together with a group of other young women ("virgins") that included St Ursula she was travelling in Germany, according to one account because they were on a pilgrimage to Rome, another claims that they were looking for a place to settle and quietly practise their faith. However, "barbarians" (huns according to the legend about St Ursula) intercepted them at the gates of Cologne and martyred them.

In 1287 Odilia appeared to a brother of the Crosier Order in Paris; and in response to her request her relics were traced in Cologne and moved to their motherhouse at Huy in Belgium. Along the way to Huy various cures of blindness and other infirmities happened.

Some of her relics are now in her shrine in Onamia, Minnesota.

Saint Odile (or Odilia) of Alsace

Sainte Odile - Dompeter

Saint Odile in Avolsheim - Alsace

St Odile of Alsace (Obernai, Dept. Bas-Rhin, c. 662 - c. 720 at Mount Ste. Odile) was the daughter of Etichon (Athich), Duke of Alsace. She was born blind. Her father did not want her because she was a girl and blind, so her mother Bethswinda had her brought to Palma (perhaps present day Baume-les-Dames in Burgundy), where she was raised.

When she was twelve, the itinerant bishop Saint Erhard of Regensburg was led, by an angel it was said, to Palma where he baptised her Odile (Sol Dei), whereupon she miraculously recovered her sight.

Her younger brother Hughes had her brought home again, which enraged Etichon so much that he killed his son. Odile miraculously revived him, and left home again.

She fled across the Rhine to a cave or cavern in one of two places (depending on the source: the Musbach valley near Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, or Arlesheim near Basel, Switzerland. In the cave, she hid from her father. When he tried to follow her, he was hurt by falling rocks and gave up.

When Etichon fell ill, Odile returned to nurse him. He finally gave up resisting his headstrong daughter and founded the Augustine monastic community of Mont Ste. Odile in the Hochwald (Hohwald), Bas-Rhin, where Odile became abbess and where Etichon was later buried. Some years later Odile was shown the site of Niedermünster at the foot of the mountain by St. John the Baptist in a vision and founded a second monastery there, including a hospital. Here, the head and an arm of St. Lazarus of Marseille were displayed but later transferred to Andlau. The buildings of the Niedermünster burned down in 1542, but the local well is still said to cure eye diseases.

St. Odile died about 720 at the convent of Niedermünster. At the insistent prayers of her sisters she was returned to life, but after describing the beauties of the afterlife to them, she took communion all by herself and died again. She was buried at Ste. Odile.

St. Odile was made the Patron saint of Alsace in 1807 by pope Pius VII. Her feast day is 13 December. She is the patroness of ocular afflictions and ear diseases; her attribute is a pair of eyes on a book. The larkspur is connected to St. Odile as well and is believed to cure eye diseases in popular medicine and superstition.

St. Odile pilgrim's chapel, near Freiburg

In the valley of the Musbach, a small river that runs near Freiburg im Breisgau, pilgrims have venerated St. Odile for centuries. In ca. 1300 a chapel was built; the present church was started in 1503 and finished in the 18th century. The church is built adjacent to a spring whose water contains radon, which is supposedly beneficial to eyesight. In the 18th century the spring became part of the church building: in 1714 the source was included by enlarging the building, in 1780 the cave with the source in it was renovated and decorated in the fanciful style of the time.[1]

Mont Sainte-Odile


Mont Sainte-Odile, the holy mountain of Alsace, became an important place for pilgrimages. There are remains of an Iron Age hillfort, called 'pagan wall' (Mur Païen) on the mountain as well. It is over 10 km long and in parts still up to 3 m high. The wall was rebuilt in Roman times.

The Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I had the church and monastery rebuilt. The Abbess Relindis established a school for the daughters of ruling families here. Herrad of Landsberg (1167-1195), another abbess at Ste. Odile, was the author of an important theological work called the Hortus Deliciarum (Paradiesgarten).

Odile in Swan Lake Ballet

Odile is also a character in the ballet Swan Lake. She impersonates Odette, the Swan Queen by orders of her evil wizard father Von Rothbart so that Prince Siegfried will break his promise to Odette and force Odette to forfeit her life.


  1. Nowacki, Franz (ca. 1970). Wahlfahrtskirche St. Ottilien bei Freiburg im Breisgau. Freiburg: Rosswog. 

External links

Saint Odilia of Cologne

Saint Odile (or Odilia) of Alsace

Prayers to the patroness of good eyesight

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