Saint Eleutherius of Tournai
St Eleutherius of Tournai Baptizing Converts (detail), workshop of Arnold of Nijmegen, Flemish, c. 1500-1525
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Feast||20 February; 25 August (translation of relics)|
Saint Eleutherius of Tournai (French: Eleuthère) (died c. 532) is venerated as a saint and considered the first bishop of Tournai. The Catholic Encyclopedia writes that "historically there is very little known about St. Eleutherius, but he was without doubt the first Bishop of Tournai."
Eleutherius is venerated as a martyr although this legend is considered an invention of the canon priest Henri of Tournai, who wrote a vita of Eleutherius in 1141. At the end of the 11th century the Church of Tournai had been trying to become independent from the diocese of Noyon, and Henri had been motivated by the need to prove the antiquity of the Church of Tournai. Catholic Online repeats the legend that a "group of Arians enraged by his preaching beat him severely He died some weeks later [sic]."
Henri's account states that Eleutherius was a native of Tournai who was born during the reign of Childeric I. Eleutherius' parents were Christians and were named Terenus and Blanda; Terenus was a descendant in the family of Irenaeus of Lyons. Persecutions of Christians forced the family to flee to a village named Blandinium (Blandain), but after the conversion of Clovis to Christianity, the family built a church at Blandinium (Blandain). Eleutherius eventually became bishop of Tournai, and was consulted by Pope Hormisdas on the matter of eradicating Arianism. Eleutherius convened a church council, and argued effectively against the Arians, who were angered by this. One day, as he was going to church, he was beaten up by a group of Arians and left for dead. He subsequently died from the wounds he received, on his death-bed confiding his flock to Medardus.
There exists a testimony recording the recovery of his relics during the episcopate of Bishop Hedilo of Tournai, in 897 or 898. Bishop Baudoin translated Eleutherius' relics in 1064 or 1065. Eleutherius' relics were translated again in 1247, when the great reliquary shrine was commissioned by Bishop Walter de Marvis. In its gable end St Eleutherius appears, holding his crozier in one hand and in the other a model of the cathedral with its five spires.