Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Denys, Bishop of Paris, and his Companions

Saint Denys, bishop of Paris, was martyred in connection with the Decian persecution of Christians, shortly after A.D. 250. He is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as patron of Paris, France and as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. The medieval and modern French name Denys derives from the ancient name Dionysius.

He was sent from Italy to convert Gaul in the third century, forging a link with the "apostles to the Gauls" reputed to have been sent out under the direction of Pope Fabian. This was after the persecutions under Emperor Decius had all but dissolved the small Christian community at Lutetia. Denys, with his companions Rusticus and Eleutherius, who were martyred with him, settled on the Île de la Cité in the River Seine. Roman Paris lay on the higher ground of the Left Bank, away from the river.

Denys, having alarmed the pagan priests by his many conversions, was executed by beheading on the highest hill in Paris (now Montmartre), which was likely to have been a druidic holy place. The martyrdom of Denys and his companions is popularly believed to have given it its current name, derived from the Latin mons martyrium "The Martyrs' Mountain", although in fact the name is more likely to derive from mons mercurei et mons martis, Hill of Mercury and Mars. After his head was chopped off, Denys is said to have picked it up and walked six miles from the summit of Mont Mars (now Montmartre), preaching a sermon the entire way.

Veneration of Saint Denys began soon after his death. The bodies of Saints Denys, Eleutherius, and Rusticus were buried on the spot of their martyrdom, where the construction of the saint's eponymous basilica was begun by Saint Geneviève, assisted by the people of Paris.


God our redeemer,
whose Church was strengthened by the blood of your martyr Denys
so bind us, in life and death, to Christ's sacrifice
that our lives, broken and offered with his,
may carry his death and proclaim his resurrection in the world;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.



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