Feast of St. Sidonius Apollinaris, St. Eucherius of Lyon, and His Descendants (April 21)   2 comments

Above:  Western Europe in 395 Common Era

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SAINT SIDONIUS APOLLINARIS (CIRCA 430-CIRCA 489)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Auvergne

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SAINT EUCHERIUS OF LYON (CIRCA 380-CIRCA 449)

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Lyon

His feast transferred from November 16

Great-grandfather of 

SAINT VIVENTIOLUS OF LYON (460-524)

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Lyon

His feast transferred from July 12

Brother of

SAINT RUSTICUS OF LYON (CIRCA 455-501)

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Lyon

His feast transferred from Lyon

Father of

SAINT SARCEDOS OF LYON (487-551)

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Lyon

His feast transferred from September 12

Son of

SAINT AURELIANUS OF ARLES (523-551)

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Arles

His feast transferred from June 16

Cousin of

SAINT NICETIUS OF LYON (513-573)

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Lyon

His feast transferred from April 2

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Sometimes writing hagiographies is a straight-forward matter.  Facts are well-documented, the contexts are clear, and no (if any) rabbit trails branch off from one person’s life.  Then we have circumstances such as the one which led to this post.  I found a name, St. Nicetius of Lyon, in a book of saints.  My subsequent research led me to seven other saints, information about six of whom I consider trustworthy.  The story of one life has become an intergenerational saga, which I have spent hours untangling.  I will try to tell the tale well; follow it with me.

Our saga begins in the twilight of the Western Roman Empire and continues until 573, when the Merovingian kings governed Gaul, which they called Francia.  The collapse of the old order and the use of the new one can be disorientating.  That, however, was the context for our characters.  Shall we start.

We begin in Gaul, in the late 330s.  One Apollinaris (I) served as Prefect of Gaul at that time.  His son, Apollinaris (II), filled the same office prior to 409.  Decimus Rusticus succeeded his friend as Prefect, serving from 409/410 to 413.  Unfortunately for Decimus Rusticus, known to be a good man and a faithful Christian, he died at the hands of forces sent by the Western Roman Emperor Honorius (reigned 384-423).  Then Apollinaris (III), son of Apollinaris (II), served as Prefect from 423 to 428.

The son of Apollinaris (III) was St. Sidonius Apollinaris (circa 430-circa 489).  Born at Lugdunum (now Lyon), in Gaul (now France), St. Sidonius served as Prefect of Gaul during the reign of Emperor Valentinian III (in office 425-455). The saint married Paplianilla, daughter of the future Emperor Avitus (reigned 455-456), who was of Gallic origin.  The couple had at least three children, including a son named Apollinaris (IV).  The reign of Avitus was a difficult one; a military revolt ended it.  The former Emperor, trying to flee to Gaul, got only as far as the city of Placentia, where the imperial authorities permitted him to become bishop there in October 456.  Yet, upon learning that the Senate wanted him dead, Avitus fled toward Gaul via the Alps.  He died of either plague or murder.

The political situation had changed for St. Sidonius Apollinaris.  Being the son-in-law of a recently deposed and perhaps murdered emperor did not bode well for the future.  Majorian (reigned 457-461), successor of Avitus and an active participant in the coup, captured Lyon, where the saint lived.  The new emperor looked favorably upon the saint’s vast knowledge, however, and treated him respectfully.  The saint, promoted to the position of count, spoke highly of Majorian.  The saint’s star continued to rise under Emperor Anthemius (reigned 467-472), who made him a Senator.  Then, in 472, the saint assumed his final post, Bishop of Auvergne, now Clermont.

The Western Roman Empire ceased to exist in 476.  This was a formality, for the empire had long existed on paper than on the ground.  Difficult times called for strong leadership, and the Church was the one unifying structure in Western Europe for centuries.  There the saint made his final contribution.  Of him St. Gregory of Tours wrote highly.  St. Gregory was impressed with the intelligence, oratory, and memory of St. Sidonius Apollinaris, who could speak at length and intelligently without preparation.  And, St. Gregory wrote, St. Sidonius could (and did) celebrate the Mass from memory.

St. Sidonius Apollinaris had a classmate and good friend, Aquilianus (circa 430-circa 470), a Gallic nobleman.  Aquillianus was the paternal grandson of Decimus Rusticus.  And Aquilianus served as Vicarius, or deputy, under the Prefect of Gaul, St. Sidonius.  Aquilianus was also the great-grandson of St. Eucherius of Lyon.

St. Eucherius of Lyon (circa 380-circa 449), husband of Gallia, mourned his wife after she died in 390.  He and his two sons, Salonius (later Bishop of Geneva) and Veranius, retreated to monastic life at Lerins.  There they lived austerely and devoted themselves to learning.  St. Eucherius even consulted St. John Cassian regarding holiness and austerity of living.  The reputation of St. Eucherius spread, causing him to become Archbishop of Lyons in 434.  Veranius, one of his sons, succeeded him in the post.

Above:  Gaul in 481

Aquilianus (circa 430-circa 470), great-grandson of St. Eucherius, had at least two sons.  One was St. Viventiolus (460-524), who had become Archbishop of Lyon by 514.  The other son was St. Rusticus (circa 455-501), who preceded his brother as Archbishop of Lyon, serving from 494 to 501.  St. Rusticus was son-in-law of Ruricus I (circa 440-circa 510), Bishop of Limoges from circa 485 to 510.  A son, Leontius, succeeded St. Rusticus as Archbishop of Lyon.  And a grandson of St. Rusticus, Gondulf of Provence, served as Bishop of Metz, starting in 591.

St. Rusticus, sources tell me, succeeded St. Lupicinus of Lyon, who presided over that see from 491 to 494.  I can find little reliable information about this saint, a contemporary of a second St. Lupicinus.  Information about them seems to have become confused.  So I move along.

Above:  Gaul in 511

St. Rusticus had a son, St. Sarcedos (487-551).  The son, also an Archbishop of Lyon, served from 544 to 551.  St. Sarcedos presided over the Fifth Council of Orleans (549).  Some notable acts of that Council included the following:

  1. Censuring all who tried to take back into servitude those whom the church had emancipated;
  2. Placing lepers under the protection of bishops; and
  3. Threatening with excommunication anyone who embezzled royally-donated funds intended for a hospital at Lyon.

The royal donor of those funds was Childebert I (reigned 511-558), the Merovingian King of Paris, whom St. Sarcedos advised.  St. Sarcedos was also the father of St. Aurelianus (523-551), Archbishop of Arles from 546 to 551.

Succeeding St. Sarcedos as Archbishop of Lyon was his nephew, St. Nicetius (513-573).  The saint, ordained priest by Agricola, Bishop of Charlons-sur-Mame, revived chanting in the churches of his see.

Details of the lives of many pre-Congregation Roman Catholic saints are sketchy, for a host of sources are lost to us.  What survives mostly are reputations for holiness and a few facts and stories.  If memory of any of us survives, may they be positive and holy ones.  May succeeding generations look back upon us and say that we kept the faith and passed it down through the family tree.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., NATIONAL BAPTIST PASTOR

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Good and gracious God,

the light of the faithful and shepherd of souls,

you set your servants

Saint Sidonius Apollinaris,

Saint Eucherius of Lyon,

Saint Viventiolus of Lyon,

Saint Rusticus of Lyon

Saint Sarcedos of Lyon,

Saint Aurelianus of Lyon, and

Saint Nicetius of Lyon

to be bishops in your Church

to feed your sheep with your word

and to guide them by their example;

give us grace to keep the faith they taught

and to follow in their footsteps.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 15 or 99

Acts 20:28-35

Matthew 24:42-47

A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989), pages 681-682

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2 responses to “Feast of St. Sidonius Apollinaris, St. Eucherius of Lyon, and His Descendants (April 21)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of St. Patiens of Lyons (September 11) « SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  2. Pingback: Feast of St. Nicetius of Trier and St. Aredius of Limoges (December 6) « SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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