First Bishop of Paris and Martyr
Feast Day--October 9th
St. Denis, patron of our parish, is also patron of France. But, other than the fact that Denis was born in Italy, nothing definite is known about the time or place of his early life.
While still very young, distinguished because of his virtuous life, knowledge of sacred things, and firm faith, Denis was sent by Pope Fabian (236-250) with some other missionary bishops to Gaul on a difficult mission. The Church of Gaul having suffered terribly under the persecution of the Emperor Decius, the new messengers of Faith were to try to restore it to its former flourishing condition.
Denis, with his inseparable companions, the priest Rusticus and the deacon Eleutherius, arrived in the neighborhood of the present city of Paris and settled on an island in the Seine. On this island Denis built a church and provided for regular divine services. His fearless and tireless preaching of the Gospel led to countless conversions. This aroused the envy, anger and hatred of the heathen priests, so they incited the populace against the strangers and persuaded the govenor, Fescinninus Sisinnus to put a stop by force to the new teaching. About the year 275 Denis and his two companions were seized and, as they perservered in their Faith, were scourged, imprisoned, racked, thrown to wild beasts, burnt at the stake and finally beheaded. Their bodies were then thrown in the Seine but were recovered by their disciples. Through the efforts of a pious matron named Catulla, the bodies of the three holy martyrs received an honorable burial and a small shrine was erected over their graves.
In the 7th century the Merevingian King, Dagobert, at the intercession of St. Genevieve, replaced the small shrine with a beautiful basilica, the famous Abbey of St. Denis. Since King Dagobert's time, the church and the Benedictine monastary attached to it have been more and more beautifully adorned. The veneration of St. Denis became by degrees a national devotion, rulers and princes vying with one another to promote it.
St. Denis is usually represented in art with his head in his hands, because, according to the legend, after his execution the corpse rose again and carried the head for some distance. The picture shown here was photgraphed from the stained glass window in our present church in Galena.