Saint Eutrope, Feast 3 March

Saint St. Eutrope, Feast 3 March

is the patron saint of the parish of Les Salles Lavauguyon. He is also the healer-saint associated with the spring that rises near the church. But who exactly is he, and where does he come from? Very few people know.

Saint Eutrope was the first Bishop of Saintes, but history records little beyond the fact that Gregory of Tours (AD 539-593) includes him in a list of bishops present in Gaul under the Emperor Decius (AD 249-251). The memory of the saintly bishop was preserved solely by word of mouth until the lives of the saints were written down for the first time around the year AD 1000.

Each story-teller and copyist embellished the life of the saint, adding more and more glorious episodes at the expense of historical accuracy. History was soon distorted into ever more impassible legend. Some of the numerous versions of the life of Saint Eutrope are relatively recent. The nineteenth century scholar from the Saintonge, Louis Audiat studied these, and from them made a synthesis upon which the following account is based:

Eutrope came from Persia (modern Iran). The son of King Xerxes, he was drawn to travel to Palestine by stories about Jesus. He witnessed the feeding of the five thousand, where he met the young Martial (who later became Saint Martial, the first Bishop of Limoges, and who, according to legend, was the thirteenth apostle).

Later, he was present at Christ's entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. After Jesus' arrest he went home to raise an army to rescue him; but before he could bring this about, on hearing the news of Christ's death he ordered the massacre of all the Jews in his country. After this he joined the apostles and first disciples and was amongst those who set off to bring the Gospel to Europe. In some legends he ravelled in the same small boat which brought Saint Martha and Saint Mary Magdalene to Les Saintes Manes de Ia Mer; in others he made the voyage with Saint Denis (the evangelist of Paris) or else Saint Martial, or Saint Peter He may even have been first Bishop of Orange before coming to the Saintonge.

As soon as he arrived in Saintes, he chose to live amongst the poor and converted more and more people from every background, amongst them the Princess Estelle, daughter of the Roman governor, who was baptised at the age of 13. She renounced her father and went to live near the bishop. He father could not accept that she should become the servant of a Christian and paid some bandits 150 livres to get rid of the intruder. They then organised a riot in which 2000 people took part. The bishop was stoned (1), beaten by sticks and flogged. Finally an axe was buried in the head of the martyr-saint.

The following night, Estelle, with his disciples recovered his body and buried it in her own garden, which then became a place of veneration and of miracles. Estelle was, in turn, herself beheaded by her father and buried near Eutrope.

When the saint's coffin was opened several centuries later in order to remove his relics, his skull was found to bear the marks of the axe which had killed him. That very night Eutrope appeared in a vision to two of those who had taken part in the exhumation and said: 'this scar which you saw on my head, is the blow by which I was martyred.' Thus the story of Saint Eutrope was re-written.

In 1715 the poet Juillard du Jarry said:

"A great martyr by noble deeds
Lifted the shadows from the oppressed.
Sent to these places by Saint Peter
Eutrope drew the blinds from their eyes."

Longer Relation

Here beginneth the Life of St. Eutrope, (Eutropius),

St. Eutrope was born and came of the most excellent lineage of all the world, and was born in the realm of Persia, and was son of the admiral of Babylon, which was named Exerces, whom the said Exerces engendered on a queen which was called Gwyne. And St. Eutrope was endoctrined in his youth in letters of Chaldee and of Greek, sofarforth that he was compared to the most greatest clerk of the realm.

After, he went to Galilee into the court of king Herod, for to see some curiosity or some novelty of the barbarians that were with the king Herod. When he had dwelt there certain days in the court he heard the fame and renomee of the miracles of our Lord Jesu Christ, and began to enquire and search so much that he heard say that our Lord would go over the sea of Galilee, and he put himself in the multitude of the people that followed him.

It happed that this day, our Lord, by his infinite largesse, refreshed and fed five thousand men with five loaves of barley bread and two fishes, in the presence of St. Eutrope. When St. Eutrope had seen this miracle and heard say of his other miracles, from then forthon he began to believe a little in him, but he durst not for his pedagogue or his governor which was with him, for the admiral, his father, had committed him in his guard.

When he had fed him with the other, he went to Jerusalem into the temple for to pray and adore his creator in his law, and after this went home to his father, and told him all that he had seen in the country from whence he came. I have seen a man, said he, that is called Christ, but in all the world is not his pareil ne like, for he raiseth dead men, he healeth the lazars, he maketh blind men to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to go right, and healeth all manner sicknesses, and yet more, tofore me he hath fed, with five loaves of barley and two fishes, five thousand men.

Wherefore if it pleased him that hath made heaven and earth to send him into this country, I shall be glad and joyous, if it pleased you, to do him honour and reverence.

When the admiral heard the words of the child he went thinking how he might see him. A little while after, the child, that had great desire to see yet Jesu Christ, took leave of his father, which he gat with great pain, and came sith with great company for to worship and adore in the temple, where he saw on a day how the children of Jerusalem came with a great company of people tofore our Lord Jesu Christ unto Bethany, making to him great reverence, and took the boughs of palm, and of olives, and of other trees, and many other flowers, which they threw in the way where he should pass, and sang with high voice: Hosanna!

Then St. Eutrope himself began to cast flowers in the way, but he was much angry because he might not see Jesu Christ for the multitude of the people that was there, and, after that is contained in the gospel, he was in the company of them that were come for to adore and worship in Jerusalem at the feast that was there, which said to St. Philip: Sir, we would see Jesu Christ.

Then St. Philip, accompanied with St. Andrew, told it to Jesu Christ. And anon after, St. Eutrope and his company saw him sitting upon an ass, whereof he was right glad, and from then forthon he believed secretly and accompanied with him, but he doubted his fellowship, forasmuch as his father had commanded them to keep him well, and that they should bring him again with them.

Then he heard say that the Jews should shortly bring Jesu Christ to death, and because he would not see so great cruelty done to so true and just a man, he departed on the morn and went in to his country, and recounted all that he had seen of our Lord.

A little while after he returned, and heard say how he was put to death, wherefore he was sorry, for he loved him much. But when he heard say that he was risen from death to life, and ascended in to heaven, he was much joyous, and returned into Babylon, fulfilled with the Holy Ghost. And all the Jews that he found in his country, for anger he destroyed, because they of Jerusalem had put our Lord to death.

After this, a certain time, when the apostles were departed through the world, two shining candlesticks of gold were sent into Persia which were of very faith, that is to say Simon and Thaddeus the apostles of God, and entered into Babylon and had chased out of the country two enchanters, Zaroen and Arphaxat, which had perverted the people by false and deceivable speaking.

And in this city these two apostles began to sow the word of God, and to do many miracles, and heal sick people of divers maladies. When this holy young man knew of their coming he was right glad, and admonished his father to leave his errors and his idols, and that he should receive the christian faith to the end that he might get thereby heaven. And what by the predication of the apostles, and by the counsel and exhorting of his son, his father and many others were converted and regenerate in the holy font of baptism by the hands of the apostles, and after, all the city was converted to the faith, and did do make a much notable church there, and ordained there a prelate, an holy man and true, whom they had brought with them from Jerusalem, named Abdias, endoctrined in the doctrine of the gospels, and they ordained St. Eutrope archdeacon.

And when they had all thus ordained, they departed and went in to other cities for to preach the faith of God, and anon after, they received the palm of martyrdom.

After, St. Eutrope wrote their passion in letters of Chaldee and of Greek.

A little while after, St. Eutrope heard speak of the miracles that St. Peter prince of the apostles did, which that time was pope of Rome; he took leave of the bishops privily, without witting of his father, and came to Rome.

When St. Peter saw him, he received him much agreeably, and endoctrined and taught him the law of God much diligently. When he had dwelled with St. Peter a long while, by the ordinance and commandment of St. Peter, he went in to France with many others for to preach the christian faith, and thus as he entered into the city of Xaintes; he went through the streets and places preaching the faith of Christ.

Anon, as they of the city saw him, they knew well that he was a barbarian by his speech, and when they heard him preach things that they never heard tofore, they burned him with burning fagots, and beat him with poles villainously, and when they had so villainously beaten him, they put him out of the city.

But the glorious friend of God bare full patiently this persecution, and made in a mountain, right nigh the city, a little lodge of boughs, wherein he dwelled a great while, and by daytime he came and preached in the city, and at night he returned unto his little lodge, where he abode in fastings and prayers and in orisons. Then when he had been long there and had converted but few of the people, he went again to St. Peter to Rome, and when be came thither he found that he had suffered passion on the cross, and found there St. Clement in his stead, which commanded and counselled him to return into the said city of Xaintes, and that in preaching the commandments of God benignly he should abide the palm of victory for the love of our Lord, that is to wit passion and martyrdom.

Then St. Clement ordained him a bishop, and also St. Denis which was come out of Greece to Rome, and many other brethren which St. Clement sent into France, and thus departed they from Rome and arrived in the city of Auxerre, and there, in great love, they kissed and embraced each other in taking leave for to depart one from another and tenderly wept. St. Denis and his fellows came to Paris and St. Eutrope went to Xaintes, strongly confirmed and firm in the love of God, all prest and ready to suffer all torments, and much constantly preached the faith in such wise that many were baptized. Among whom the daughter of the king of the said city, which was named Euscelle, was baptized.

When her father knew it, he had thereof so great indignation that he put her out of the city, and anon as she was out, for the love of God she went straight unto the lodge of the holy man and abode there.

Always the father for love that he had to his daughter was sorry that he had put her out, and sent ofttimes to her messengers for to come again home to him. To whom she answered that she had liefer for the faith of Jesu Christ dwell out of the city, than to return in again to sacrifice to the idols. For which answer the father was so angry and wroth that he wist not what to do, and did do assemble of all the butchers of the town, and gave to them an hundred and fifty shillings for to put to death St. Eutrope, and that they should bring again his daughter to his house.

Then, the day tofore the calends of May, they assembled with them many Saracens and came to the lodge of St. Eutrope, and first they stoned him, and after they beat this holy man with staves and scourges leaded, all naked, and after they cleaved his head with a butcher's axe, and sawed him with a saw.

The maid with many others buried him by night in his tigurion or lodge, and kept him in vigils with lights, and in divine obsequies, as long as she lived.

A little while after, she departed out of this world right holily, and was buried beside her master as she had required by her life.

After this, a certain space of time, they of Xaintes edified over this holy corpse a much notable church, in which all sick folk of divers maladies and sicknesses have been healed, and yet daily be, and also many prisoners be also, by the prayer of this holy saint, delivered of their irons, as gyves, bolts, and other, which be hanged in the said church in remembrance that they have been loosed and unbound by the prayers of St. Eutrope.

St. Denis wrote the passion and martyrdom of St. Eutrope in Greek and sent it into Greece, to his friends that believed there in God, by the hands of St. Clement that then was pope of Rome, in exalting and glorifying the name of God which without end reigneth and shall reign. Amen.