The white stag is a widely known figure in Southern France, especially in the West and is very closely linked to a Catholic saint called St. Hubert.
Saint Hubert (656-727), a French nobleman from Toulouse and future king of Aquitaine, lost his faith after his wife died giving birth to their son. Full of sorrows, Hubert turned away from his duties and consecrated himself to hunting. He was exceedingly good at it and, soon enough, spent every day in the woods chasing boars, deers and does.
On Good Friday morning (right before Easter—the most sacred day in the Christian world), when the faithful were crowding the churches to honour Jesus Christ's death on the cross, Hubert sallied forth to the chase.
Suddenly, a dash of white emerged from the mist. A white stag whose antlers majestically crowned its noble head; Hubert was fascinated and immediately rushed to its pursuit, yet his horse's neigh scared the animal away.
After an hour of a breathless hunt, Hubert had to stop as the immaculate stag was towering over him, standing on an arch made of fallen trees.
The animal looked over him intently and, as the pious legend narrates, Hubert was astounded at perceiving a red crucifix standing between its antlers, while he heard a voice saying: “Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest a holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell”. Hubert dismounted, prostrated himself and said, “Lord, what wouldst Thou have me do?” Hubert renounced his title and privileges, gave his money away to the poorest and came back to Catholic life. He decided to enter the religious life and was appointed Bishop in Belgium where he died peacefully.
Saint Hubert is prayed to today by hunters and the symbol of a stag crowned by the cross is frequently encountered in French medieval imagery and books.
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