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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume V: May. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

May 25

SS. Maximus, or Mauxe, and Venerand, Martyrs in Normandy

ACCORDING to the modern legend these saints were brothers, natives of Brescia in Italy. The former is said to have been ordained bishop, and the latter deacon, by Pope Damasus, and sent by him to preach the faith to the infidels. They first executed their commission in the armies of the barbarians which had crossed the Alps from Germany into Lombardy, but seem to have reaped no other fruit of their labours but the honour of suffering torments for the name of Christ. Having escaped out of the hands of their persecutors, they travelled into France, accompanied by two holy priests named Mark and Etherius. They passed through the cities of Auxerre, Sens, and Paris, and having made a halt at the confluence of the Oise and the Seine pursued their journey towards Evreux. At Acquiney, a village four leagues from that city, and one from Louviers, they were seized by a troop of barbarous infidels (or according to others of Arian heretics) who carried them into a fruitful island formed in that village by the rivers Eure and Itton, and there beheaded them. Mark and Etherius escaped out of the hands of these barbarians who were conducting them to Evreux, and returning buried the bodies of the two martyrs in an old church beyond the island, which had been plundered by the Vandals, and left almost in ruins. 1 St. Eternus was at that time bishop of Evreux, who according to all sat a very short time, and is honoured as a martyr at Evreux on the 16th of July, and at Luzarch, a town in the diocess of Paris towards Chantilly, where his relics are kept in a silver shrine, on the 1st of September, and their translation on the 13th of August. He is sometimes called Etherius; whence some think him to have been the companion of our holy martyrs from Italy, who was chosen bishop after their death. He is usually placed about the year 512, after Maurusio, the immediate successor of St. Gaud. Some critics place the mission and martyrdom of our saints and of St. Eternus, or Etherius, soon after the death of St. Taurinus, the founder of the see of Evreux, before St. Gaud, and before many of the people were converted to the faith, which both the end of their mission and their martyrdom render probable; nor have we any authentic monuments which ascertain the time either of their death, or of the episcopacy of St. Eternus.  1
  When Richard I. surnamed the Old, was duke of Normandy, and Guiscard, bishop of Evreux, about the year 960, the relics of SS. Maximus and Venerand were discovered at Acquiney by one Amalbert, who attempted to carry off this sacred treasure, except the heads of the two martyrs, which he left with the old inscription engraved on a marble stone: “Hic sita sunt Corpora SS. Maximi et Venerandi.” As he was crossing the Seine near the monastery of Fontenelle, or St. Vandrille, with the rest of the sacred bones, he was seized with a miraculous sickness, and obliged to deposit them in that famous abbey; and Richard duke of Normandy built a new chapel there for their reception. 2 These relics were burnt by the Huguenots. Those which remained at Acquiney were kept in a church built over their tomb, which was made a Benedictin priory dependent on the abbey of Conches; but this church falling to decay, by an order of M. de Rochechouard, bishop of Evreux, these relics were translated into the parish church, and deposited under the high altar. On their festival on the 25th of May, these relics are carried in procession to the place where the saints received the crown of martyrdom. In the spring of the year 1559, in a great drought, they were carried in a solemn procession to the church of our lady at Evreux; and again in June, 1615, when at Evreux these were carried after the head of St. Swithin; also in 1726; and each time the procession was followed with abundant rains. SS. Maximus and Venerand are honoured with great devotion in the diocess of Evreux, and at the abbey of St. Vandrille. See their history printed at Evreux in 1752; also Le Brasseur, Hist. d’Evreux, pp. 33 and 77; and Trigan, Hist. Ecclesiastique de la Normandie, An. 1759, l. 1, p. 79.  2
Note 1. The Vandals made their great irruption into Gaul about the beginning of the reign of Valentinian the Younger. Idacius in Chron. Procopius de Bello Vandal. S. Hierom. ep. 91, t. 4, ed. Ben. part. 2. [back]
Note 2. Chron. Fontenel. apud D’Achery in Spicileg. t. 3, p. 256. [back]