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Dionysius (Denis, etc.) is the fairly legendary protobishop of Paris, named by St. Gregory of Tours (_Historia Francorum_, 1. 30) as one of seven missionaries sent to evangelize Gaul during the reign of the emperor Decius (249-251) and as one of two of these who later were martyred (in Dionysius' case, by decapitation). He is entered under today, along with the priest Eleutherius and the deacon Rusticus, in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology and in the martyrologies of Florus of Lyon and St. Ado of Vienne. Dionysius' numerous Passiones (BHL 2171ff.) make Rusticus a priest and Eleutherius a deacon and in this they are followed both by Usuard of Saint-Germain and, in what is now expressly a summary of tradition, by the Roman Martyrology.

BHL 2171 claims an apostolic origin for the churches of the various early missionaries (Dionysius of course included) by placing their mission in the first century under pope St. Clement I. This tradition was known to the author of the first Vita of St. Genovefa of Paris (BHL 3334; ca. 520). Genovefa, in turn, is said to have erected at some time in the later fifth century a church over Dionysius' tomb at Catulliac in Parisian territory some miles north of the city proper and close to the royal villa at Clichy. In the sixth century St. Venantius Fortunatus knew of Diohysius' church there, which was beginning to receive important burials, and of another dedicated to him in Bordeaux. In the early seventh century the church at Catulliac was being tended by a monastic community that would evolve into the famous abbey of Saint-Denis. It was also drawing pilgrims in such numbers that Dagobert I (the first king to be buried there) founded an adjacent fair on Dionysius' feast day.

This Dionysius' identification with Dionysius the Areopagite (3. October) appears to begin with his eighth-century Passio BHL 2178, a product of the abbey of Saint-Denis that also presents Dionysius in what would become his standard construction as a cephalophore. His ninth-century Passio by abbot Hilduin elaborates Dionysius' legend and uses matter from the late antique philosopher Dionysius (in mss. called the Areopagite), thus making Dionysius of Paris also a theologian. Slightly later Byzantine synaxary notices of Dionysius the Areopagite likewise collapse the three Dionysii into one. By this time Dionysius of Paris had become a "national" saint in Francia and his cult was radiating elsewhere. In the twelfth century abbot Suger translated relics believed to be those of Dionysius, Rusticus, and Eleutherius from the crypt of his rebuilt abbey church to underneath its main altar. In the later Middle Ages Dionysius was one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, invoked in cases of illness of or injury to the head.

Today (9. October) is Dionysius of Paris' feast day in the diocese of Paris. The latter now celebrates Rusticus and Eleutherius on 8. November in a celebration of all the saints of the church of Paris. In the Roman Martyrology today is the day of commemoration of Dionysius of Paris and unspecified companions.

Some period-pertinent images of St. Dionysius of Paris:

a) as depicted (at left; at center, Rusticus; at right, Eleutherius) in an earlier eleventh-century gradual for the use of the abbey of Saint-Denis near Paris (ca. 1030; Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine, ms. 384, fol. 117v):

b) as portrayed in a mid-eleventh-century relief in the entrance hall to the Kirche St. Emmeram in Regensburg, originally the church of a monastery claiming to possess Dionysius' remains:

c) as depicted in an historiated initial "P" in an earlier twelfth-century passionary from St Augustine's Abbey in Canterbury (London, BL, MS Arundel 91, fol. 47v):

d) as portrayed in relief with the background removed (at center; at left, Rusticus; at right, Eleutherius) in a mid-twelfth-century walrus ivory plaque (from a portable altar) in the Musée du Louvre in Paris:

e) as depicted in one of four panels of a full-page illumination in the late twelfth-century so-called Bible of Saint Bertin (ca. 1190-1200; Den Haag, KB, ms. 76 F 5, fol. 28v, sc. 2A):

f) as portrayed in relief (at center) in the jambs of the left portal of the south porch (betw. 1194 and 1230) in the basilique cathédrale Notre-Dame in Chartres:
Detail view (Dionysius' head):

g) as portrayed (at far right) in an earlier thirteenth-century statue on a choir screen in Bamberg's Dom St. Peter und St. Georg (consecrated, 1237):
Another view:

h) as depicted (at left; presenting the oriflamme to Jean Clément at right) in an earlier thirteenth-century window (1228-1231) of the south transept clerestory in the basilique cathédrale Notre-Dame in Chartres (not to miss the important bibliography cited on this page):

i) as depicted in a later thirteenth-century window (ca. 1280) in the Stadtkirche St. Dionys in Esslingen am Neckar:

j) as depicted (at center between Rusticus and Eleutherius; their martyrdom) in a late thirteenth-century copy of French origin of the _Legenda aurea_ (San Marino, CA, Huntington Library, ms. HM 3027, fol. 142v):

k) as depicted (at left; at right, St. Piatus of Seclin [1. Oct.]) in the late thirteenth-century Livre d'images de Madame Marie (ca. 1285-1290; Paris, BnF, ms. Nouvelle acquisition française 16251, fol. 84v):

l) as depicted (surrounded by his biographers) in the first volume of a richly illuminated early fourteenth-century copy, now in three volumes, of Yves of Saint-Denis' _Vita et passio sancti Dionysii_ together with its French-language translation by Boitbien (ms. completed, 1317; Paris, BnF, mss.  Français 2090-2092, at ms. Français 2090, fol. 12v):
The three volumes as digitized and presented in Gallica:

m) as portrayed (seated) in an earlier fourteenth-century polychromed walnut-wood statue from Köln (ca. 1320) now in that city's Schnütgen-Museum:
Another view (before restoration but showing the object's backside):

n) as portrayed in relief (at right; at left, Eleutherius; at center, Rusticus) in an earlier fourteenth-century marble sculpture (ca. 1326-1350), formerly part of a retable, in the Musée du Louvre in Paris:

o) as depicted (scenes of his life and and suffering) in an earlier fourteenth-century copy of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (ca. 1326-1350; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 185, fols. 202r, 203v, 204r, 204v, 205v, 206v, 207v), the last also depicting the martyrdom of Rusticus and Eleutherius:

p) as depicted in a mid-fourteenth-century copy, from the workshop of Richard and Jeanne de Montbaston, of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (1348; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 241, fol. 275v):

q) as depicted (bottom register at right; at left, St. Valentine of Rome) in a later fourteenth-century glass window in the north transept of the Basilica St. Valentinus und Dionysius in Kiedrich (Lkr. Rheingau-Taunus-Kreis) in Hessen:

r) as depicted (at left; at center, Rusticus; at right, Eleutherius; their martyrdom) in a later fourteenth-century copy of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (ca. 1380; Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine, ms. 1729, fol. 262v):

s) as depicted (at center; at center, St. Louis the King) in the presentation illumination of a late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century copy of the _Grandes chroniques de France_ (ca. 1390-1405; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 2806, fol. 1r):

t) as depicted in a panel of the fifteenth-century chancel screen of the church of St Andrew, Hempstead (Norfolk):

u) as portrayed in a fifteenth-century polychromed stone statue, formerly in the église Saint-Rémi in Sacy (Yonne) and now in the abbaye Saint-Germain d'Auxerre in Auxerre:

v) as depicted (between Rusticus and Eleutherius) in the early fifteenth-century Hours of René of Anjou (ca. 1410; London, BL, MS Egerton 1070, fol. 104r:

w) as depicted (central group at right; at left, Rusticus; at center, Eleutherius; their martyrdom) in the early fifteenth-century Châteauroux Breviary (ca. 1414; Châteauroux, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 2, fol. 364r):

x) as depicted in the early fifteenth-century Vendôme Chapel window (c. 1415) in the basilique cathédrale Notre-Dame in Chartres:

y) as depicted (at left, receiving communion from Jesus while imprisoned, and at right, undergoing martyrdom along with Eleutherius and Rusticus) by Henri Bellechose on an early fifteenth-century altarpiece (paid for in 1416) in the Museé du Louvre in Paris:

z) as portrayed in relief (martyrdom and cephalophory) on an earlier fifteenth-century boss (betw. 1423 and 1428) in the north walk of the cloister of the cathedral church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity in Norwich:

aa) as depicted in a full-page illumination of French or English workmanship in an earlier fifteenth-century book of hours (ca. 1430-1440; Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, ms. 5, fol. 35v):
Detail view (Dionysius' severed head):

bb) as depicted (_gesta_, martyrdom, and cephalophory) in the later fifteenth-century wall paintings (? ca. 1451-1475; restored, early twentieth century) in the Kirche St. Dionys-Wurmsbach in Rapperswil-Jona (Kanton Sankt Gallen):

cc) as portrayed in a later fifteenth-century polychromed limestone statue (ca. 1460-1470) in the Bode-Museum in Berlin:

dd) as depicted (martyrdom and cephalophory) in a later fifteenth-century copy (ca. 1480-1490) of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language translation by Jean de Vignay (ca. 1480-1490; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 245, fol. 135r):

ee) as portrayed in a late fifteenth-century polychromed limestone statue in the Virginia Fine Arts Museum in Richmond (multiple views):

ff) as depicted in a hand-colored woodcut in the Beloit College copy of Hartmann Schedel's late fifteenth-century _Weltchronik_ (1493; _Nuremberg Chronicle_) at fol. CIXv:

gg) as portrayed in high relief in the early sixteenth-century choir stalls (betw. 1501 and 1507) in the St. Martinskirche in Memmingen in southwestern Bavaria:

hh) as portrayed (at left; at right, St. Leodegar of Autun) in a panel of an earlier sixteenth-century window (bay 2; ca. 1501-1525) in the choir of the église Saint-Germain in Troyes:

ii) as depicted (at left; at right, St. Margaret) by Vicente Macip in the central panel of his early sixteenth-century altarpiece (ca. 1510) in the capilla de San Dionisio y Santa Margarita in Valencia's catedral de la Asunción de Nuestra Señora:

jj) as depicted by the Master of Messkirch on a panel from a dismembered earlier sixteenth-century altarpiece (ca. 1535-1540) in the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart:

John Dillon
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