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A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Dionysius, Saint, Apostle of France

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Dionysius (2), St., apostle of France, and first bp. of Paris. Concerning his identity and era there are three principal opinions.

(1) That he was Dionysius the Areopagite, formerly bp. of Athens, who came to Rome and was sent by Clement, bp. of Rome, to preach in Gaul. This is the tradition of the Greek church, and of those of Gaul, Germany, Spain, and Italy. The corresponding legend shortly narrated in the Paris Martyrology, states that his companions were Rusticus, a presbyter and Eleutherus, a deacon, and that all three were put to death by the sword under Sisinnius Fescenninus, prefect of Gaul. This is the opinion of Flavius Lucius Dexter, d. 444 ( Chronicon. Patr. Lat. xxxi. 270).

(2) That, although not the Areopagite, he was sent by Clement or the successors of the apostles. This is held in a poem in honour of Dionysius, attributed with some probability to Venantius Fortunatus of Poitiers, who had written a poem on the same subject committing himself to no opinion (Patr. Lat. lxxxviii. 72, 98). It is also supported by Pagius in his notes on Baronius.

(3) That he was sent from Rome in the 3rd cent., and suffered martyrdom c. a.d. 250. This is held by Sulpicius Severus, d. a.d. 410, and Gregory of Tours, d. 595. Sulpicius says, "Under Aurelius, son of Antoninus, raged the fifth persecution. Then first were martyrdoms seen in Gaul, for the religion of God was late in coming over the Alps" (Severi, Chronicon, ii. 32, Patr. Lat. xx. 147). Gregory ( Hist. of the Franks, bk. i. c. 28), speaking of the Decian persecution, quotes the Hist. Passionis S. M. Saturnini : "Under the consulship of Decius and Gratus, as is held in faithful recollection, the state of Toulouse began to have a bishop, St. Saturninus, her first and chief. These were the men sent: to Tours, Gatianus the bishop; to Arles, Trophimus the bishop; to Toulouse, Saturninus the bishop; to Paris, Dionysius the bishop, etc. Of these the blessed Dionysius, bishop of the Parisians, afflicted with many pains for the name of Christ, ended this present life under the sword." Probably, therefore, he died under the emperor Aurelian in a.d. 272 (cf. Gall. Christ. vii. 4).


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Dionysius, Saint, Apostle of France'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. 1911.

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