Blessed Giles was born in Assisi. He must have worked the land, judging from some of the expressions and comparisons he used in speaking. In the spring of 1208, when he was eighteen, he joined St Francis on St George’s Day and thus became one of the first members of the community of Friars Minor. In 1210, he went with other penitent friars of Assisi to Rome, to present to Pope Innocent III their forma vitae, that is, their way of living according to the precepts of the Holy Gospel, which would later become the Rule of the Friars Minor. After returning to the valley of Spoleto, he went with the permission of Francis to the most famous places of pilgrimage, such as the tombs of the Apostles in Rome, the sanctuaries of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, San Michele at Gargano, San Nicolà in Bari, and the Holy Land. He earned his living and his passage on boats by working. In Acri he made cane baskets and bore the dead to be buried.
After St Francis’ death, he withdrew in 1234 to a hill just outside the city walls of Perugia, Monteripido, and remained there until his death. He lived there together with other companions and members of the Coppoli family, who owned the place. The youthful enthusiasm with which he had joined Francis has been refined over time and had made way for an old man’s wisdom. For this reason, many people went up to Monteripido, to listen to his wisdom expressed in very simple sentences. These were collected when the time was right, and preserved as the collected “Sayings of Brother Giles”.
He died on St George’s Day, 23rd of April 1262, the same day he had joined St Francis at the Porziuncula years before. His body was brought into safe keeping within the city walls at the convent of San Francesco al Prato. He was buried there in an ancient Roman ark, with the story of Jonah carved around the outside and the added inscription Beati Aegidii sepulchrum (the tomb of Blessed Giles). Dante, in his Divine comedy, speaking in the 11th canto of Paradiso about the earliest companions of St Francis and referring to Christ and Lady Poverty, writes: «O wealth unknown! O veritable good!/Giles bares his feet, and bares his feet Sylvester/Behind the bridegroom, so doth please the bride!». His immemorial cult was approved by Pope Pius VI.