Home  »  Volume XI: November  »  St. Marcellus, Bishop of Paris, Confessor

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

November 1

St. Marcellus, Bishop of Paris, Confessor

HE was born at Paris in the fourth age, of parents not conspicuous for any rank in the world, but on whom his virtue reflected the greatest honour. Purity of heart, modesty, meekness, mortification, and charity were the ingredients of his character in his youth; and he gave himself entirely to the discipline of virtue and prayer, so as to seem, whilst he lived in the flesh, disengaged both from the world and the flesh, says the author of his life. The uncommon gravity of his manners, and his progress in sacred learning so strongly recommended him to Prudentius, Bishop of Paris, that when he was yet young this prelate ordained him reader of that church. From this time the saint is said to have given frequent proofs of a wonderful gift of miracles. He was afterwards promoted to the dignity of priesthood, and upon the decease of Prudentius was unanimously chosen Bishop of Paris. As he undertook this charge by compulsion and with trembling, so a just apprehension of his obligations made him always humble, watchful, and indefatigable in all his functions. It is related that amongst other miracles he freed the country from a great serpent which inhabited the sepulchre of an adultress. But the circumstances of this action depend upon the authority of one who wrote near two hundred years after the time, and who, being a foreigner, took them upon trust, and probably upon popular reports. The saint died in the beginning of the fifth century, on the 1st of November, on which day he is named in the Roman Martyrology, though in the Gallican his feast is deferred to the 3rd. His body was buried about a quarter of a league from Paris in a village which is now joined to the town, and called the suburb of St. Marceau. His relics have been long since kept in the cathedral. See the life of St. Marcellus by Fortunatus, 1 published by Surius.  1
Note 1. This piece is attributed by Cave, (Hist. Lit. t. 1, p. 530,) Dubois, (Hist. Ec. Paris, p. 46,) and some others to Venantius Fortunatus, who, fleeing the swords of the barbarians in Italy, left Ravenna, and, out of devotion to St. Martin, settled at Tours. Thence he was called by St. Radegundes to Poitiers, and after the death of his friend, St. Gregory of Tours, in 595, upon the demise of Plato, bishop of Poitiers, was chosen to fill that see. He died soon after the year 600, and is honoured at Poitiers among the saints on the 4th of December. We have monuments of his extensive learning and original genius in four books of the life of St. Martin, in verse, hastily compiled from the elegant prose of St. Sulpicius Severus, in ten books of poems, (published with his life by F. Brower, the Jesuit, at Mentz,) and in several other scattered poems also in an excellent short exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, this author’s masterpiece, in which he recommends daily communion. By this piece we may form a judgment of the devotion of St. Radegundes, whose chaplain and director Fortunatus was at Poitiers. This piece is extant in the library of the Fathers, and in the Orthodoxographa, with his Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed. Muratori (Anecd. Lat. p. 212,) has published his Exposition of the Creed of St. Athanasius, which Dr. Waterland had quoted in manuscript. (Comm. on the Creed of St. Athan. pp. 32, 171.) The lives of the following saints compiled by this author, are barren of facts, and filled with relations of miracles: of St. Germanus of Paris, St. Albin of Angers, St. Paternus of Avranches, St. Amantius of Rhodes, St. Remigius of Rheims, the second book of the life of St. Hilary, the life of St. Medard published by Dachery, (Spicil. t. 8, p. 391,) that ascribed to Venantius Fortunatus by Surius, being the work of Radbod II., bishop of Poitiers in the eleventh age. But his life of St. Radegundes, different from his others, is a very useful narrative of her actions and virtues: as is also the supplement, or second life of the same holy queen, compiled by Baudonivia, corruptly called Bandonivia, the learned nun of her monastery whilst Fortunatus was bishop. See Rivet, t. 3, p. 464, and the last edition of Cave’s Historia Literaria, in 1740, in which most of his former mistakes on this article are corrected, except that the two Fortunatuses are confounded together.
  Another St. Fortunatus, bishop of an unknown see in Lombardy, a native of Vercelli, for his learning surnamed the Philosopher, came into France a little before the former, perhaps expelled by the Lombards. He settled near Chelles, was much honoured by St. Germanus, bishop of Paris, and died a little before him, as Usuard testifies in his Martyrology, about the year 569, when St. Germanus lay sick. He is honoured on the 5th of May, and 18th of June; the place where he was interred bears his name; his relics are kept with respect, and two churches are built in his honour. See the Bollandists, 18 Jun. Du Bois, Hist. Eccl. Paris, l. 1, c. 8. Tillem. t. 10, p. 416. This is the Fortunatus who, at the request of St. Germanus of Paris, compiled the life of St. Marcellus. See Dom Rivet, Hist. Littér. de la Fr, t. 3, p. 298. [back]