The Name Gengulphus

The Cross of St Gengoult, near Méligny le Grand
SAINT GENGULPHUS – HIS NAME AND ITS VARIANTS
In the days when Pepin bore the royal sceptre… a renowned youth grew up in those regions;
outstanding in arms, handsome in body, and pleasing in the uprightness of his behaviour.  
His name was Gengulphus.
[Hroswitha]

The Saint’s name is of Germanic origin and consists, as was characteristic for people of the higher classes, of two elements gang (step, or way, or gait) plus wulf (wolf); exactly the same elements, but in reversed order, form the German name Wolfgang.  The name is not unique to the Saint himself.  Other instances of the name in the Merovingian period may refer to members of the same family.

The Saint’s name is spelt in a bewildering number of ways, reflecting the variety of linguistic traditions in which his cultus took root.

In French the name has sometimes been misunderstood (and still occasionally is) as containing Jean plus some other element, giving rise to forms such as St Jean Goul and St Jean Goult.

The spelling Gengoux reflects a mediaeval convention shared by many French words whereby final -ls is represented by -x. (As, for example, beaux for bels.)

The author of the anonymous Life of St Ceolfrith, speaking of the man who might have been an ancestor or relation of the Saint, records the name in its most primitive form:  Gangvulfus.

Variations of the name, past and present, include:

ENGLISH: Gengulph   Gengulphus   Gingo   Jingo

FRENCH: Gaingulphe   Gangond   Gandouffe   Gangolph   Gangon  Gangoen   Gangou  Gangouf   Gangouffe   Gangoul   Gangulphe   Gengon   Gengou   Gengoul   Gengoulph   Gengoult   Gengoux  Gengulphe   Gigoult Gigout   Gingeon   Gingolph   Gingoux   Jangon   Jeangon   Jean Goul   Jean Goult – and something completely different in 2020: Jeangu*

GAUMAIS: Djangon

GERMAN: Galgolf   Gandulf   Gangloff   Gangolf   Gangulf   Gegot   Gendulf   Genf   Gengol   Gengolf   Gengoulf   Gent   Gingolf   Golf   Gongolf   Gulf   Kangolf

LIÉGOIS : Djego

The form Gangolf d’Avallon, which is used in the article on the Saint in French Wikipedia, is unfortunate and requires some comment.  It is not the Saint’s name as it appears in the primary source (Vita I) where Gangulphus or Gengulphus is used throughout.  Neither does it appear in any other significant secondary source, nor in the Martyrologium Romanum, nor in any reputable work of reference;  neither does Gangolf reflect a version of the name commonly used in France today (see below, and his Cultus in France);  neither is any church or chapel in France dedicated to him under this name – and one can only question the basis upon which this form was chosen.  The totally unwarranted addition of d’Avallon to his name also prejudges the issue of whether the Avalense territorio in which Gengulph took up residence following his separation from his wife should be identified with Avallon in Yonne, or with some more local destination such as Vaux la Douce.  This identification is not regarded as certain by serious and competent scholars.  In brief, the questionable form Gangolf d’Avallon is perverse, prejudicial, unscholarly and misleading.

*This last French name – never noted before by the editor and not earlier recorded as a version referring to the Saint – is the first name of the singer who was to represent the Netherlands in the (cancelled) European Song Contest in 2020. Just added as a curiousity.

© Paul Trenchard
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