Happy Birthday, St. Yves

Happy Birthday, St. Yves

By: Terra Olsen


This has been quite the year for me, but the absolute highlight was marrying my better half, followed by a trip of a lifetime to Brittany, France. It was during our time in France that I experienced a moment in my life that will stay with me forever. I attended the Pardon of St. Yves.

Before I dive into my experience, I want to convey the seriousness of my interest in St. Yves. Randall and I picked our wedding date specifically so we could ensure that we were in France with enough time to drive ourselves to Tréguier, the resting place of St. Yves. The Pardon was held on May 20th this year, meaning we wanted to be in France the week prior, meaning we had to get married May 12th, which is now our anniversary.  Needless to say, I have a very easygoing and amazing husband.

My interest in St. Yves stems from research I did while in graduate school. I found the Vitae of St. Yves beautiful, and his history interesting. Born October 17th, 12–[1], he is the Patron Saint of lawyers (funny enough, as Randall is a lawyer) and Bretons. During his life, he only took cases of those in need (i.e. widows, orphans, or the poor). This is why he is known as the “Advocate of the Poor.” He died on May 9th 1303, and was canonized in 1347 (it would have happened sooner, but the popes kept dying…).

“Pro Deo te adjuvabo”
For the Sake of God I will help you

When I was researching about his life, there was very little information in English; so translating the sources I did find became a work of love (foreign languages are not my strong suit), and consequently I developed a soft spot in my heart for St. Yves. So it only made sense when Randall and I started discussing honeymooning in France that we make our way to Brittany.

St. Yves’ flag

We arrived in Brittany with plenty of time to transition to the time zone and familiarize ourselves with the highway system. The morning of the Pardon, we got up very early and drove to from Perros-Guirec to Tréguier. I insisted we get there early since I was unsure how many people would attend the ceremony and wanted to guarantee a good spot to watch everything unfold. Well, I might have been a bit overzealous because the town was bare. There were a few people trickling in, but nothing to worry about. We spent the morning wandering through the town. By the afternoon, Bretons filled the streets displaying Breton fashion and St. Yves’ flag. The festivities began with bagpipes filling the air, followed by a precession of clergymen and townsfolk. It was beautiful. We sat outside listening to the service and waited for the procession to proceed from the cathedral. Once the procession started, people marched with banners depicting various Saints high above their heads. Soon came the moment I had been waiting for. In Cathedral St Tugdual’s doorway appeared the gold and glass box with St. Yves’ skull. That’s right, I said his skull. As they marched toward us, I became overwhelmed and started to cry. I should note that I am not Catholic, nor am I a religious person, but experiencing history come alive first hand was overwhelming and wonderful. I had read, researched, and talked about St. Yves and his Pardon for so long that it seemed surreal to experience the ceremony firsthand. As a history nerd, it was a moment for pure bliss.

 I wanted to share this experience for two reasons. First, to acknowledge St. Yves’ birthday- Happy Birthday, St. Yves! Second, to encourage other history nerds to experience their historical passion firsthand. You won’t regret it. Some might think you’re insane, but really that just makes the experience so much sweeter.



[1] There is debate regarding St. Yves actual birth year. It could be 1247, 1248, or 1253.

Source:  Rieck, Annette. Der Heilige Ivo von Hélory (1247-1303) : advocatus pauperum und Patron der Juristen. Frankfurt: P. Lang, 1998.