Saint Denis
Bishop, martyr
Born third century
Died ca. AD 250
Venerated in Roman Catholicism
Feast October 9
Attributes Severed head
Patron saint of France

Saint Denis carrying his head

Saint Denis, also known as Denys, Dionysius, or Dennis is a Christian saint, bishop of Paris, martyr, and a patron saint of France. He died around 250.

Gregory of Tours simply states of Denis that he was bishop of the Parisii and was martyred by being beheaded by a sword: (Beatus Dionysius Parisiorum episcopus diversis pro Christi nomine adfectus poenis praesentem vitam gladio immente finivit, [History of the Franks I, 30]). The earliest document giving an account of his life and martyrdom (Passio SS. Dionysii Rustici et Eleutherii), dating from ca 600 A.D. and wrongly attributed to the poet Venantius Fortunatus, is already embroidered with legend. Nevertheless, it appears that Denis was sent from Italy to convert Gaul in the 3rd century, (probably under the direction of Pope Fabian, 236 - 250) after the persecutions under Emperor Decius had all but dissolved the small Christian community at Lutetia (Paris). Denis with his inseparable companions, the priest Rusticus and the deacon Eleutherius, who were martyred with him, settled on the Ile de la Cité in the Seine.

He was executed by beheading on the highest hill near Paris (now Montmartre), which being the highest hill in the area was also likely to have been a druidic holy place. The martyrdom of Denis and his companions gave the name of Montmartre, in French literally the mountain of the martyr. According to the Golden Legend, after his head was chopped off, St Denis picked it up and walked several miles, all the time preaching a sermon. The site where he stopped preaching and actually died was made into a small shrine that developed into the Saint Denis Basilica, which became the burial place for the Kings of France.

This walk has led to St Denis being depicted in art as headless, holding his mitred head in his hands. Handling the halo in this circumstance offers a unique challenge for the artist. Some put the halo where the head used to be; others have St Denis carrying the halo along with the head.

His feast day is October 9.

External links

fr:Saint Denis nl:Dionysius van Parijs pl:Święty Dionizy sv:Sankt Dionysius simple:Saint Denis


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