Saint Felix of Valois, (born c. 1127, France—died 1212, Cerfroid; feast day November 20), legendary religious hermit who, with St. John of Matha, has traditionally been considered a cofounder of the Trinitarians, a Roman Catholic religious order. Felix’ existence is known only from a spurious history of the order compiled in the 15th century.
According to legend, Felix lived a solitary ascetic life in the forest near Cerfroid in the diocese of Soissons. The founding of the Trinitarians, an order originally devoted to freeing Christian slaves from Muslim captivity, was supposedly suggested by John of Matha, a disciple of Felix. Although he was 70 years old at the time, Felix is said to have agreed to help, establishing the new order in France and Italy, while John traveled to Spain and Barbary. Felix then returned to administer the motherhouse of the order at Cerfroid.
Although the tradition of the Trinitarians holds that the two were canonized in 1262 by Pope Urban IV, there is no evidence of any decree to that effect. Their cult was officially recognized, however, by Alexander VII in 1666.
Trinitarian, member of Order of the Most Holy Trinity for the Redemption of Captives (O.SS.T.), a Roman Catholic order of men founded in France in 1198 by St. John of Matha to free Christian slaves from captivity under the Muslims in the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain. St. Felix of Valois has been traditionally considered as cofounder, but recent critics have questioned his existence. The order had its own rule, distinguished for its austerity, and devoted one-third of its possessions and revenues to the liberation of slaves. No accurate figure for the number of captives ransomed can be given, but it has been estimated that the total was as high as 140,000. Because slavery is no longer an international problem, the order now devotes itself to teaching, giving missions, and serving in parishes, hospitals, and prisons. The order is said to have numbered 5,000 members in 1240, but, by the end of the Middle Ages, a decline had set in, and various reforms were attempted during the 16th century. In 1597 a reform called the Barefooted (Discalced) Trinitarians was initiated in Spain by Juan Bautista of the Immaculate Conception; this became a distinct order and is the only surviving branch of the Trinitarians.