In the substance, Limousin is not different of the other countries of the Latin Christianity. Indeed, as everywhere there are with the universal saints of the church regional or local saints whose relics are conserved in the churches.
Probably the originality of the Limousin is that many of these relics were conserved in reliquaries locally made. The other particularity is the good knowledge we have about these conserved relics in the large diocese of the Middle Age, thanks to two historians who wrote about them: one at the end of the 12thcentury, the monk Geoffroy of Breuil, the prior of Vigeois, and the other at the beginning of the 14thcentury, the Dominican Bernard Gui, both born in Limousin.
(Source - Jean-Christophe "Les saints du Limousin")
The treaty of Bernard Gui gives information about the name of about hundreds of saint whose bodies ornament the diocese of Limoges’ churches. We find in it:
the saints of the Aurelian legend whose relics are conserved in Saint-Martial de Limoges abbey or coming from it : : Martial, Valérie, Suzanne (Valérie’s mother), Alpinien et Austriclinien (Saint Martial disciples), the duck Etienne, Aurélien and his companion André (priest of idols), Ortaire, Hildebert (son of the count of Poitiers resuscitated by Martial and became clerk), Androche (Britain bishop killed while he was coming to the sanctuary of Saint-Martial), Amafe (builder of the saint Martial tomb).
Bernard Gui added two other saints whose bodies are conserved elsewhere but who came from the abbey: Celse and Justinien.
the saints of other churches in Limoges:the bishop Asclèpe, Flavie, the bishop Rorice, Just, the bishop Loup, Joconde (saint Yrieix’s father), the bishop Cessateur, Domnolet.
the saints of the diocese : Léonard of Noblat, Marc and Sébastien (founders of the monastery of Artige), Gaucher in Aureuil, Martin of Brive, Calmine, Justine, Etienne of Muret, Goussaud, Eloi, Bosole, Yrieix and his mother Pélagie, Théau in Solignac, the bishop Férréol in Nexon, Martin Charlemagne’s chaplain in St Priest sous Aix, Ulfard in Tulle ...
the limousine saints veneered in other dioceses: Eloi born in Chaptelat and veneered in Noyon, Vasst born in Courbefy veneered in Arras, Armand born in La Mayse veneered in Périgord, Bosole veneered in the diocese of Trèves, Odon de Cluny was abbot of Saint-Martin in Tulle and veneered in Saint-Julien de Brioude, Remacle, first abbot of Solignac veneered in Stavelot, Sacerdos, bishop of Limoges veneered in Sarlat, Alpinien whose body was transported in Castelsarrazin.
In their geographic repartition, the Haute-Vienne has a major place with 50 saints including 24 only for Limoges, while the Corrèze counts 32, the Creuse 11 and the Charente (Lesterps) 3. The abbey of Saint-Martial conserves 15 of those bodies in reliquaries.
Many of these saints are the objects of Limousin own practices like the ostensions every seven years since the end of the Middle Age, like also the many processions where their relics were showed along the medieval time.
(Source - Limousin médiéval, le temps des créations / Bernadette BARRIERE)
THE SAINT MARTIAL CULTE
A cult had been developed very soon on the sepulture of the first evangelizer in Limousin and first bishop of Limoges: Saint-Martial in the 4th century. Grégoire of Tours testified this cult at the end of the 6th century. The evangelization of the Limousin had slowly been done in the Merovingian time, after the first impulsion given by Saint Martial and his companions Alpinien and Austriclinien, and his immediate successor Aurélien. It resulted of initiatives taken with the bishop agreement by many other characters; the contemporaries thought they were saints. The whole Limousin people since then have veneered them as their ancestors of reference: the cult developed when they died stayed particularly perennial on their tombs: Junien, Victurnien, Léonard, Psalmet (in Eymoutiers), Yriex, Marien (in Evaux), Pardoux (in Guéret), Martin the Spanish (in Brive) and many others. This region was strongly attached to the relics’ veneration like the pilgrimage notion
L'évêque confia la plupart de ces sanctuaires à des chapitres canoniaux qui avaient mission d'y assurer le culte, et qui, de surcroît, eurent évidemment à coeur d'assurer la renommée de leurs saints respectifs : veillant à la bonne tenue des cérémonies, à la qualité des ornements liturgiques, à l'entretien et au décor des édifices dont la reconstruction générale s'opère à partir de la seconde moitié du Xième siècle semble-t-il, ces communautés se préoccupent d'abriter les reliques du saint dans des coffres et des châsses, périodiquement embellis ou renouvelés, au fur et à mesure que les moyens financiers le permettaient ; entre l'utilisation du bois ou du plomb, et celle de l'or ou de l'argent, l'émail champlevé sur cuivre doré a dû représenter l'une des étapes possibles dans la recherche de ces améliorations.
The bishop entrusted most of sanctuaries to canonical chapters which had the mission to insure the cult and had also the wish to maintain their respective saints’ reputation: keeping an eye to the good running of ceremonies, to the liturgical ornaments quality, to the upkeep and the decoration of the building which had been rebuilt from the second part of the 11thcentury. It seems that these communities were worried to shelter the saint relics in coffins and shrines, gradually renewed with the financial gains. Between the wood utilization and the plumb one, gold or silver, the enamel of golden copper should have represented one of the possible steps in the research of those ameliorations.
With the series of the Merovingian saints, the list of limousine saints was not closed and the 12thand 13thcenturies saw the arrival of new comings in this celestial horde. The reformative incitements of the Gregorian movement in the 11th and 12thcenturies had been particularly well welcome in the diocese of Limoges, where we raised the action of Israël and Théobald in the chapter of Dorat; of Gautier in Lesterp;, of Geoffroy, founder of the chapter of Chalard; of Gaucher, founder of the chapter and the small canonical congregation of Aureil; of Marc and Sébastien, founders of the small hermetic order of Artige.
Other experiences like the one of the regular canons were also tempted here and there: we retain rather the one of Etienne de Muret, whose choice of hermetic life attracted paradoxically, many disciples who organized themselves after his death in 1124 in a perfectly original order. The siege was in Grandmont which had as we know a wonderful standing in the Plantagenet states. We retain also the hermetic and then monastic experience of Etienne d’Obazine (1159) who included in 1147 the diverse houses he founded in the Cistercian order.
(Source - Limousin médiéval, le temps des créations / Bernadette BARRIERE)
Buste reliquaire d'Etienne de Muret de l'Ordre de grandmont
Tombeaux du XIIIème siècle d'Etienne d'Obazine
Little lives of the limousine saints
SAINT THEAU OU TILLON, priest and hermit (7th january)
Saxon captive bought by Saint Eloi, the young Théau or Tillon was initiated by him to the goldsmithery and to the virtue by Saint Remacle. Eloi became bishop of Noyon and made him priest for the evangelization of the Saxons settled in the Flanders. After the death of the bishop in 659, Tillon withdrew in the Haute Auvergne as an hermit and came back in Solignac to end his days in a hermitage where he received and advised even bishops. He died at an advanced age around 702 and his relics were destroyed during the Religion wars.
SAINT VAURY, hermit (10th January)
Came from the North-East of the Gaul up to the tomb of Saint-Martial in the 6thcentury, Vaury set himself as a hermit on the Trois-Cornes’s eminence, closed to a church dedicated to Saint-Julien where he should be buried. The place was given to the abbey of Saint-Martial and was furnished with a small monastery and the relics of the saint patron were hidden a little time in Montjovis around 1010. The dedication of the church was made on Thursday, July 3rd by the archbishop of Bourges and some bishops of the province who talked about the God peace in Aquitaine. The ornamented shrine of Saint-Vaury and his relics were saved during the French Revolution.
SAINT VAAST, or GASTON, bishop (February 6th)
Saint-Vaast was from the borders of Périgord and Limousin, perhaps from Courbefy in the 5thcentury. Missionary in paean north of Gaul like many cultivated inhabitants of Aquitaine at that time, he was in charge of preparing the king Clovis for his baptism of 496. Saint Rémy of Reims charged then Vaast to be the bishop of the cities of Cambrai and Arras and it was in this last city he died in 540. The church and the abbey under his name became the cathedral of the diocese and still shelter his relics.
SAINT AVERTAN, religious (February 25th)
Young limousine of a modest family, Avertan entered in the Carmel of Limoges in the 14thcentury and was remarked for his obey and his devotion to the Virgin Mary. Left for a pilgrimage in Rome, he died in Lucques because of tireless and an epidemic. The miracles happened along his body merited to his relics to be brought back in the cathedral of Lucques in the 16thcentury and a cult was also created in his order. This cult was adopted by the diocese of Limoges at the end of the 18thcentury.
SAINTS ALPINIEN et AUSTRICLINIEN, priests (April, 27th)
These two companions of Saint-Martial, known from the 6thcentury by Grégoire of Tours, were celebrated very soon in the limousine churches, the first on this day, and the second on October, 15th. They were buried closed to their master, but Alpinien’s body was transferred in the priory Saint-Martial had in Berry in Ruffec and he was sheltered in the 12thcentury in the biggest ornamented shrine known of that time.
SAINT AURELIEN, bishop (May, 10th)
A liturgical story of the 10thcentury about the life of Saint-Martial made Aurélien as the successor of the saint as bishop of Limoges. His body was solemnly brought out in 1316 in the church of Saint-Cessateur in the city and conserved then by the corporation of butchers in the chapel that holds his name.
SAINT LOUP, bishop of Limoges (May, 22nd)
This ecclesiastic dignitary, responsible of Saint-Martial’s sanctuary, was elected bishop of Limoges at the beginning of the 7thcentury and approved the foundation of the line. Buried in the abbey of Saint-Martial, his body was transferred in 1158, September 6th in Saint Michel des Lions. The fair on his name day developed his cult still maintained by a brotherhood on his name.
THE SAINT BISHOPS OF LIMOGES (July, 6th)
Since Saint-Martial, hundreds of bishops occupied the siege of Limoges. Among them, the cathedral or other church of the diocese veneered the memory of two Rorice, the grand-father and the grand-son, of Asclèpe, of Sacerdos, of Cessateur. All of them lived between the 6thand the 8thcenturies. In the 14thcentury, Roger le Fort des Ternes was promoted from the siege of Limoges to the one of Bourges where his virtues brought to him the title of “blessed”.
SAINT GAUCHER, religious (April, 9th)
Born closed to Meulan in the Vexin around 1060; Gaucha set himself as a hermit very young in Limousin where he stopped by Saint-Léonard to the road of Saint-Gilles. The bishop and the chapter of the cathedral helped him to found the priory of the regular canons in Aureil and few feminine communities around. The church was dedicated in 1093 to Saint Jean the Evangelizer and the priory was inspired by the customs of Saint-Ruf of Valence approved by Urbain II. With the traditional celibacy vow was added the share of any goods. Aureil grew fast in the diocese and its canons were soon responsible of about forty churches. Very mortified Gaucher was a popular predicator. He died aged more than 80 years old on April, 9th 1140 after a road crash and the bishop of Limoges canonized him in 1194 with the pope Célestin III’s authorization.
SAINT YRIEIX, abbot (august, 26th)
Born in Limoges of noble parents in the 6thcentury, Yrieix is the most famous of the first limousine saints. Ordained by Saint Nixier of Trêves, he founded on his domain of Attane a monastery whose filial were Vigeois and Excideuil in Périgord. Church builder, Yrieix was especially a fervent pilgrim who visited the renowned sanctuaries and the religious of his neighbor like sainte Radegonde of Poitiers. He had left the management of these gainsto his mother Pélagie and he followed her in the eternal life in 591 after a last pilgrimage in Saint-Martin of Tours.
SAINT FERREOL, bishop (Septembre, 18th)
Bishop of Limoges at the end of the 6th century, Férreol had to calm down the furors of the population against the Merovingian kings’ exactions and also rebuilt Saint Martin of Brive, burned out during these difficult times. He assisted to the council of Mâcon in 585 where they tried to restore the dominical practice, in the protection of the weakest and the ecclesiastic discipline apart from the responsibility of the pope. Ferréol presided over the funerals of Saint-Yrieix in 591.
SAINT VICTURNIEN, hermit (September, 30th)
Victurnien was honored as a hermit in September, 30th in a Saint-Etienne church along the Vienne River. His body was brought out on October, 15th and set in a shrine in the 13thcentury, but we do not know the location. A late tradition made Victurnien came back in the Celtic lands during the Merovingian times and attributed to him the healing of mental diseases.
SAINT JUNIEN AND SAINT AMAND, hermits (October, 16th)
The tomb of Saint-Junien attracted in Comodoliac a lot of sick people from the end of the 6thcentury. Around the 9th century a liturgical story told by the chronic of the canon Etienne Maleu in 1316 confirmed the passage of Grégoire of Tours and remained Saint-Junien’s high born, his perseverance in the desert and the protection the bishop saint Rorice 1st granted to him. This story gave to him as a spiritual master saint Amand whose tomb was found at the end of the 11th century but we don’t have much information. The basilica Saint André de Comodoliac was built by the bishop Rorice II on the tomb of Saint-Junien who healed him and gave with Notre-Dame his name to the collegial church of Saint-Junien rebuilt in the 12thcentury. A monk community and then a canons chapter used the sanctuary until the Revolution. Geoffroy of Vigeois in his catalogue of remarkable saints in Limousin noticed at the end of the 12thcentury that the relics of Junien and Amand were the pride of the inhabitants. The relics of saint-Amand after the invention in 1083 of his first grave by Saint-Hugues, abbot of Cluny, were welcomed in the church of the canons of Saint-Junien.
SAINT LEONARD, hermit (November, 6th)
Léonard was a hermit with a German origin veneered in Noblat since the 7th-9th centuries. His reputation of liberator of prisoners was important and the liturgical story of his life and miracles was written in the 11thcentury in order to gather pilgrims in his sanctuary in the collegial church of Saint-Léonard de Noblat. Saint Léonard stayed as a memory and honor from England to Italy but more in south Germany.
SAINT ISRAEL, priest, and THEOBALD, deacon (November 7th)
Israèl was born near Dorat in the middle of the 10thcentury and was given child to the collegial of the city newly created by the count of the Marche on the parish of Dinsac. Talented and virtuous he was noteworthy by the bishop of Limoges Hilduin who took him as chaplain and auxiliary in reason of his eloquence and his judgment. Soon Israèl received the charge of chanter, second dignity of Dorat. He had as a friend the saint canon Hervé, treasurer of Saint-Martin of Tours, and had as pupil the young Gauthier, future superior of Lesterps. He had also to retake in hand, as provost-marshal the sanctuary of Saint-Junien and established there a traditional canonical observance.
Generous with the poor people and welcoming the victims of the Saint Anthony’s fire Israèl passed from this world to the divine light on December, 22nd, 1014. Originally also from the Marche, Théobald studied in Périgueux, but set himself in the service of God in Dorat few decades after Israel’s death. Very constantto the prayers and going out as less as possible, he was chosen as treasurer and sacristan of the church where he assured a lot of advantages: he was satisfied with the minimum and gave teaching services in the same time. He died exhausted in 1070, November 6th. The two bodies were buried out in 1130, on January 27th to be put in the crypt of the church, and then transferred in 1659, on September 13th on each side of the altar. This last date marked also the beginning of the ostensions every seven years. Miracles signaled these translations and relics were saved during the French Revolution.
SAINT JUST (November, 26th)
This holy man was formerly celebrated on November 26th in the territory which holds today his name. Around the year 1000 his relics were given to the abbey of Saint-Martial newly founded in Limoges and a beautiful legend made him as a disciple priest of saint-Hilaire. A part of the relics seem to have been brought in the cathedral around 1220. We find also some of them in Couzeix or in Saint-Just le Martel since the French Revolution.
SAINT ELOI, bishop (December, 1st)
Born around 588 in Chaptelat, Eloi learnt the goldsmithery and knew how to be appreciated of the kings who employed him for his ability and honesty. Virtuous laic and mortified despite his wealth, he employed these wealth to free prisoners, he founded a monastery in Solignac with the help of the abbot Remacle, and another dedicated to Saint-Martial for the virgins of Paris. Promoted bishop of Noyon in 641, Eloi knew how to preach in a lively and direct style to populations newly Christian. He could come back and settled in Solignac as successor of Remacle and died in 660. His cult had at the end of the Middle Age the favor of artisans in different metals.
SAINTE VALERIE (December, 10th)
Closed to Saint-Martial with his burial in Limoges, Valérie was associated to him in his minister with the liturgical stories of the 9th and 10th centuries. Her body was so transferred to the monastery of Chambon sur Voueize that depended to Saint-Martial. A modern church in Limoges reminds her souvenir.
SAINT SAUVEUR and SAINT JULIEN, honored in Rochechouart
The choice of the patronage of St Sauveur belongs to the religious of Charroux who were the founders of the monastery of Rochechouart.
SAINT JULIEN of Brioude
Gage of the union of the two parishes of Biennac and Rochechouart, Julien was born in Vienne in the Dauphiné and was behead in Brioude during the persecution of Dioclétien in 304. He was known to heal the paralytics, the blind and lame people.
SAINT ETIENNE DE MURET, diacre and hermit (February, 8th)
This young Auvergnat set himself in a hermitage in Muret near Ambazac around 1080 and died as the age of over eighty years old in 1124 visited by the Roman legates passing by. Austere for himself and the other, Etienne received voluntary, sharing with his visitors of any position, the spiritual advises and donations. His doctrine was based on the Evangel and the writing of Saint Grégoire le Grand. His disciples took the body to Grandmont and built the first abbey of the Grandmont order, on the parish of Saint-Sylvestre and from there spread the small foundations where clerks and laics lived the same work and welcome life and in the povrety. The bishop of Limoges edified the relics of Etienne in 1167 and after an investigation on his teachings, his life and his miracles; the pope Clément III canonized him in 1189. In 1256, his cult spread to the entire diocese and was classified in the Roman martyrology in the 18thcentury. His head, conserved in Saint-Sylvestre, is honored during a pilgrimage every year at the end of August.
SAINT MAXIMIN, honored in Magnac Laval
Saint Maximin, born near Loudun in Poitou at the end of the 3rd century, became bishop of Trêves, summer capital city of the Roman emperor Constantin. He often stopped by in Magnac Laval during his trips to his natal country where he died in 352, May 29th. His relics are conserved in Pfalzel near Trêves.
According to his hagiography, Saint Etienne of Muret came the first time of this foundation near Gaucher. They were closely linked, but one day Gaucher acceded to “virtuous ladies” requests to live under his direction in 1085. Etienne who was hostile took his distances and left to Muret. Saint Gaucher made built for his monks the monastery of Bost las Mongeas, 500m away of Aureil. The church of his priory was dedicated to Saint Jean the Evangelizer in 1093. The rule they followed was inspired of the customs of Saint Ruf of Valence and had been approved by Urbain II: traditional celibacy with the sharing of goods. The regular canons of Aureil served around twenties churches in the parish in 1200. Saint Gaucher died after an accident, sleepy on his horse, he was 80. He fell down and his head hit a rock. He died the day after, on April 9th in 1140. During the funeral presided by Gérard, bishop of Limoges, many miracles happened. He was canonized by Celestin III in 1194. The bishop of Limoges went to Aureil in 1194, on September 19th, stand the holy body and put it in a shrine.
The monastery of Aureil, name given by Saint Gaucher had such success that around forty priories were founded in Limousin, southern Berry and his natal region. He received a lot of donations from the powerful families in the neighbor and from the bishops of Limoges. But this observance was a victim of the Black Prince troops. Rebuilt, it was burned out on the order of the Duck of the Deux-ponts in 1569 and a second time by the Protestants of Lévis de Ventadour in 1575. The last monks abandoned Aureil in 1598. The last prior, Simon Palays, asked for his monastery to be unified to the Jesuits college of Limoges in 1622, like the monastery of Artige in 1682. The monastic buildings were rebuilt in 1643 but the church was only a wall between the second and the third spans in 1635. The oriental wing was demolished in the 19th century. The roof of the bell tower firstly in slate had been done again in 1967 in wood. The last span of the church was secularized and bought by the municipality to be used as a municipal room.
SAINT SILVAIN of Ahun (October, 16th)
From the 11th century the former calendars of the cathedral of Limoges and the abbey of Saint-Martial mentioned Saint Silvain.
Geoffrey of Vigeois in his chronicle at the end of the 12thcentury made him as a martyr of the Vandals. Bernard de Gui added in the 14th century that his body was buried by the Normans. The story of the behead martyr in Acitodunum, gallo-roman resort identified in Ahun in Creuse could have been mixed with the mythological rests of Sylvanus, protector of wooden spaces.
SAINT PARDOUX de Guéret (6 octobre)
The cult of Saint Pardoux had been developed from the 10th century in the diocese of Limoges, It does not figure in the roman martyrology but it is present in the oldest limousine martyrology.
It is in the 7th century that Lantarius, count of Limoges, persuaded the monk Pardulphe (or Saint Pardoux) to join his rural domain of Waractum. Pardulphe, hermit so far known for his powers of thaumarturge, became there abbot of an abbey around which a village had been built. The whole was razed by the Vikings in the 9th century, but a modest city was built again, giving birth to Guéret.
Many « vitae » were conserved, but the main source of the legend is in the Acta Sanctorum of the Bollandistes. A son of peasants, Pardulphe received a stick on his head during his childhood and was blind for a while but it deeply transformed him morally. He got himself noticed for his charity. Later, we know about him some miraculous healings, like the one the duck of Aquitaine”s advisor Regnaricus who ate mushrooms that stayed stuck in his stomach. Godfather of the child of a certain Leodulphus of Bourges, the cradle moved alone when it needed. But it didn’t avoid the death of the child, but the protection of Pardulphe avoided the house of the parents to be destroyed by a huge fire kindled by the Francs who came in the city in 743. A statue and a painting in the church of Gimel les Cascades remind this story.