Peaceful beginnings

The St Leger Stakes, the oldest of British horse racing’s classic races, is named after Anthony St Leger, an 18th-century MP and soldier. And his family name, in turn, is ultimately owed to St Leodegar, a bishop and martyr born in the Somme region in 615.

Leodegar’s background placed him close to politics and public affairs, which would eventually lead to his death.

The son of a Burgundian nobleman, he grew up at the court of Clotaire, king of the Franks. This king, unusually peace-loving and monogamous for his time and era, had achieved a measure of unity among the Franks. But soon after Leodegar became a priest, then abbot of a monastery in Poitou, conflict broke out again between the various Frankish factions.

A reforming bishop

In 656, St Bathilde, the queen of the Frankish kingdoms, called him to help in government.

He was soon appointed bishop of Autun, and was zealous in the cause of orthodoxy. He condemned Manicheism and promulgated the Athanasian Creed, the fullest statement yet of beliefs necessary for salvation.

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