Denis or Denys

Denis or Denys, ST., 1. the so-called apostle of France and first bishop of Paris, is said to have been sent from Rome about 250 A.D. to preach the Gospel to the Gauls. After delays from persecutions brought on him by his zeal at Arles and other places, he arrived in Paris, where he made many proselytes. Pescennius or Sicinnius Lescennius, who was then the Roman governor of this part of Gaul, ordered Denis to be brought before him, along with other two Christians, Rusticus, a priest, and Eleutherius, a deacon. Finding them firm in their faith in spite of torture, Pescennius caused them to be beheaded, A.D. 272, or, as others say, A.D. 290. Gregory of Tours, Fortunatus, and the Latin martyrologists state that the bodies of the three martyrs were thrown into the Seine, but were recovered by a pious woman, and buried near the place where they lost their lives. Their supposed relics, in silver caskets, were afterwards taken to the abbey of St. Denis (see below). The Acta of St. Denis, written about the end of the 7th or beginning of the 8th century, is founded upon popular traditions, and the best historians of France hold that nothing can be certainly known of either the time or the place of the martyrdom, or of the genuineness of the relics of St. Denis. St. Denis was for a long time confounded with Dionysius the Areopagite (q.v.). He is honored as a saint in the Roman Church on the 9th of October. His name was the war-cry of the French soldiers, who charged to the cry Montjoye St. Denis. — Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, 13:674. SEE DIONYSIUS THE AREOPAGITE.

2. The ABBEY OF ST. DENIS, near Paris, named from the tradition that Dionysius the Areopagite was buried there. The abbey was founded by Dagobert I, king of France, A.D. 613. The vaults of the church of St. Genevieve, connected with the abbey, contained (before the French Revolution) the bodies of 25 kings, 10 queens, 84 princes and princesses, and those of Bertrand du Guesclin and Turenne. In 1793 a mob, headed by the Jacobins, destroyed the abbey and carried the contents of the vaults to the nearest cemetery. The abbey was restored in 1806, and after the Restoration Louis XVIII caused such of the remains as could be found to be restored. There is still at the abbey of St. Denis a chapter of St. Dionysius Areopagit., composed of the grand almoner (primicier), 10 canons of the first class (archbishops and bishops aged over 60), and 24 canons of the second class. — Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, s.v.

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