Born . 1100 Valkenburg, Holland
Died . 1170 Houthem, Holland
Feast January 5
Attributes portrayed in art as a hermit with an ass near him, or depicted in his hollow tree. He is also depicted with a thorn in his foot.
Patronage domestic animals
Saint Gerlach (Gerlache, Gerlac, Gerlachus van Houthem, Gerlac of Valkenberg) (d. ca. 1170 AD) was a 12th century Dutch hermit. His cult is centered at Valkenburg aan de Geul.
The Vita Beati Gerlaci Eremytae, written around 1227, describes his legend and life. Originally a licentious soldier and brigand, Gerlache became a pious Christian upon the death of his wife and went on pilgrimage to Rome and Jerusalem. At Rome, he nursed the sick for seven years. He also performed rites of penance for the sins of his youth.
Upon returning to Holland, he gave up all of his possessions to the poor and took up residence in a hollow oak on his former estate near Houthem. He ate bread mixed with ash and traveled by foot each day on pilgrimage to Maastricht, to the Basilica of Saint Servatius. Despite his extreme austerity, he was engaged in a dispute with local monks, who wanted him to enter their monastery. The common people in the area considered him a saint, but these monks appealed to the local bishop. They accused Gerlach of actually being incredibly rich, his oak actually being the location of a cache of treasure. The bishop commanded that Gerlach's oak be cut down. Gerlach, however, had by this time made powerful friends, including Hildegard of Bingen, and received protection. Nevertheless his oak was cut down, but the bishop found no treasure and wanted to make up his mistake to the saint by having the oak cut up in planks and having a small hut constructed with those.