St. Denis, the Decapitated Saint

A Little Gimpse about the Life of St. Denis and his Martyrdom

St. Denis and his companions were so effective in converting people that the non-Christian priests became alarmed over their loss of followers.

At their instigation, Roman Governor arrested the missionaries. After a long imprisonment, St. Denis and two of his clergy were executed by beheading on the highest hill in Paris (now Montmartre), which was likely to have been a druidic holy place. The martyrdom of Denis and his companions is popularly believed to have given the site its current name, derived from the Latin Mons Martyrum “The Martyrs’ Mountain”, although the name is possibly derived from Mons Mercurii et Mons Martis, Hill of Mercury and Mars.

After his head was cut off, St. Denis is said to have picked it up and walked several miles from the summit of the hill, preaching a sermon the entire way, making him one of many cephalophores in hagiology. Of the many accounts of this martyrdom, this is noted in detail in the Golden Legend and in Butler’s Lives Of The Saints. The site where he stopped preaching and actually died was marked by a small shrine that developed into the Saint Denis Basilica, which became the burial place for the kings of France.

 

St. Denis’ Prayer 

You are wisdom, uncreated and eternal,
the supreme First Cause, above all being,
sovereign Godhead, soveneign goodness,
watching unseen the God-inspired wisdom of Christian people.
Raise us, we pray, that we may totally respond
to the supreme, unknown, ultimate, and splendid height
of your words, mysterious and inspired.
There all God’s secret matters lie covered and hidden
under darkness both profound and brilliant, silent and wise.
You make what is ultimate and beyond brightness
secretly to shine in all that is most dark.
In your way, ever unseen and intangible,
You fill to the full with most beautiful splendor
those souls who close their eyes that they may see,
And I, please, with love that goes beyond mind
to all that is beyond mind,
seek to gain such for myself through this prayer.

 

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