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St Denis, Bishop of Paris

Saint Denys or Denis is a westernisation of the Latin, Dionysius.  According to Saint Gregory of Tour’s book ‘Historia Francorum’ Denis was one of seven bishops sent to Gaul by the Bishop of Rome during the reign of the Emperor Deccius. Their mission was to extend the spread of the Gospel in that mostly-pagan area.

While most of the bishops were sent to major settlements, St Denis was assigned to the small, remote pagan town of Lutetia, which later grew to become the city of Paris. He and his companions settled outside the town in a house given to him by a convert, where the few Christians could meet in secret.  Soon, through the holy bishop's grace-filled preaching and his many miracles, Christianity grew rapidly.

  A fierce persecution of Christians swept through Gaul, and many of the faithful were abused, tortured or put to death. Saint Denis, fearless of danger and heedless of his own old age, travelled among the Christians, visiting the prisoners and encouraging all to remain firm in their confession of Christ.

Dates are a little vague but during the years of persecution of Christians by Roman emperor Decius in 251 or Valerian in 258, Denis was arrested along with several companions, and was tortured without pity. Whilst he was publicly hanging on a cross, he preached to the onlookers of the mystery of Christ's Passion.

Taken back to prison, he celebrated the holy Eucharist for the last time, enveloped in a heavenly light. He and a host of other Martyrs were then beheaded on a hill, now called Montmartre in their memory.  Before the French Revolution, the Kings and Queens of France were buried in the Basilica of Saint Denis in the town, now Northern Parisian suburb, which was named after him.

Saint Denis is allegedly the first Bishop of Paris, a Christian martyr and a patron saint of France.  The feast day for him and his martyred companions is celebrated on 3rd October in the Western Church. 

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