June 5, 2018

Saint Illidius, Bishop of Clermont (+ 385)

Saint Illidius (French: Saint Allyre,] died in 385 and was a fourth century Bishop of Clermont, France. To Illidius is attributed the rise of Clermont-Ferrand as a center of religious teaching and culture. According to tradition, he cured the daughter of the Roman Emperor Magnus Maximus at Trier. He is celebrated on June 5.

By St. Gregory of Tours

(Life of the Fathers, 2)

Among the other seeds of perpetual life with which the heavenly Sower has from the fountain of His divinity watered the field of the untutored soul with His precepts and fertilised it with His teaching, He says: "And he that taketh not his cross and followeth me, is not worthy of me" (Matthew 1 0:38). And that elect vessel, the blessed apostle Paul, has he not said, "Always bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in your mortal body" (II Corinth. 4:10)? Therefore the confessors of Christ, whom the time of persecution has not provoked to martyrdom, have become their own persecutors, in order to be thought worthy of God. They have charged themselves with various crosses of abstinence, and in order to live with Jesus Christ they have mortified their flesh, following the words of the Apostle: "It is not I who live, but Christ liveth in me" (Galat. 2:20). For they saw by the eyes of their inner understanding that the Lord of the Heavens came down to earth, not abased by humility, but humiliated by His mercy, for the redemption of the world; they saw hanging from the cross, not the glory of the Divinity, but the pure sacrifice of the body which He had taken on, as St John had foreseen shortly before: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1 :29). They had in them the mark of the nails when, transfixed by fear of Him and filled with terror of the judgements of God, they did not have within the habitation of their heart anything unworthy of His power. In them shone that bright light of the resurrection, with which the angel glittered when he removed the stone from the tomb; Jesus was thus resplendent when he entered (unexpectedly, for the doors were closed) into the midst of the assembly of the apostles, and also when, after filling them with the words of life, he was raised up to the celestial heights. The blessed confessor Illidius so placed all these things in the tabernacle of his heart that he too might deserve to become a temple of the Holy Spirit.

As I prepare to write something of his life, I beg the indulgence of my readers. I have indeed not made any study of grammar, and I have not been polished by the cultivated reading of secular writers; instead the blessed father Avitus, bishop of Clermont, exhorted me to study ecclesiastical works.1 If the things which I have heard in his sermons or that he has got me to read have not formed my judgement, although I cannot observe them, it is he, second only to the psalms of David, who has led me to the words of evangelical preaching, and to the stories and epistles of apostolic virtue; it is from him that I have been able to know that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came for the salvation of the world, and to honour by worthy homage His friends who, taking the cross of an austere observance, have followed the Bridegroom. And now, having displayed all the temerity of my rustic ignorance, I am going to tell as well as I can what I have learnt of the blessed Illidius.

1. The holy Illidius, who recommended himself by perfect sanctity of life and who accumulated in himself the gift of diverse graces bestowed on him by God, merited what until then had not been granted to his already lofty sanctity: he was chosen, by the inspiration of God and the choice of the people, as bishop of the church of Clermont and pastor of the Lord's sheep.2 The renown of his holiness, elevated by various degrees of grace, extended not only into all parts of the Auvergne, but even crossed the frontiers into neighbouring towns. Finally the rumour of his glory came to the ears of the emperor at Trier, whose daughter suffered much, being possessed by a devil; no one could be found to cast it out.3 Illidius was recommended by popular rumour. Immediately the emperor sent messengers, who speedily brought the holy old man to Trier by royal authority. He is received with great respect by the ruler, who is very troubled by the unhappy plight of his daughter. The holy bishop, trusting in the Lord, prostrates himself in prayer. He passed an entire night singing sacred hymns and songs, and then put his fingers into the mouth of the young girl and chased out the evil spirit which had tormented her body. The emperor sees this miracle, and offers the holy bishop great heaps of gold and silver. He vehemently refused this gift, but he asked for and obtained that the city of the Auvergne, which paid tribute in kind, in wheat and wine, should pay it in gold, for it was only with great trouble that the tribute in kind could be transported to the imperial treasury.4 The saint fulfilled the time of his earthly life, and left on that speedy journey towards Christ; his body was carried off by his own people and buried in his town. 5

2. Since people are very accustomed to criticise, someone will perhaps foolishly say, "It is not possible for a man to be ranked among the saints just for this one miracle." But one should weigh well what the Lord says in the Gospel, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not cast out devils in thy name? and in thy name done many wonderful works? and then will I profess unto them, I never knew you" (Matthew 7:22-3). Assuredly He means that the virtue which comes from the tomb is much more worthy of praise than those things which a living person has worked in this world, because the latter could be blemished by the continual difficulties of worldly occupations, while the former were certainly free from all blemish. And since, as we believe, the deeds done by St Illidius before his death have been forgotten and have not come to our knowledge, we will tell what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have experienced, or what we have learnt from trustworthy people.

At the time when Gallus governed the church of Clermont, the author of these words, still a boy, was seriously ill; and he was often visited by the bishop, who loved him much, and was indeed his uncle.6 His stomach was filled with a great quantity of phlegm, and he was seized by a very strong fever. Then there came to the child a desire which, I believe, came from God, that he might be carried to the church of the blessed Illidius. He was carried by servants to the tomb of the saint, and, mingling prayers with his tears, he felt much more at ease than he had before. But when he returned home he was again taken by the fever. Then, one day when he found himself even more ill and when the fever was stronger than usual, to the point that it was thought that he would never recover, his mother came to him and said, "Today, my sweet son, I will be full of sadness, for you are so ill." And he replied, "Please don't be sad, but send me to the tomb of the blessed bishop Illidius, for I believe and I trust that his virtue will find happiness for you and health for me". And so he was taken to the tomb of the saint, and he addressed a prayer to the Lord, freely promising that if he were delivered of his sickness by the intercession of the bishop, he would at once become a cleric. Hardly had he spoken when he felt his fever begin to leave him; he called his servant and asked to be taken home. There he was put to bed, and while the house was at table, he had a great nose-bleed, and as the blood flowed the fever left him. This was certainly obtained by the merits of the blessed confessor. Recently also a servant of Count Venerandus7 after having been blind for a long time, celebrated vigils near the tomb and returned cured.

3. As for what has happened with his relics, this is what the same writer has seen with his own eyes. He had dedicated an oratory in the bishop's house at Tours, in the first year of his episcopate, in which he put the relics of this holy bishop together with those of other saints.8 A long time after the dedication he was warned by the abbot to check the relics which he had placed in the altar, for fear that the humidity of the new building had caused them to moulder. He did indeed find them to be damp, and so he took them from the altar and began to dry them at a fire. And he wrapped them each up in turn, and then came to the relics of the blessed bishop Illidius, and held them to the fire. The string which bound them was too long, and fell onto the burning coals: like copper or iron it began to redden in the heart of the fire. Not worrying much about the string as long as the sacred relics were dried properly, he thought that it would have been burnt up in the flames; nevertheless when he draws it out the string is unharmed. Seeing this he is astonished, and marvels at the power of this truly blessed bishop. And it was not without great fear that he brought away news of this deed, and revealed his glory to all. The string in question was made of wool.

4. There was a little boy of about ten months who was generally recognised to be the great-grandson of the blessed man. This child was afflicted by a very grave illness. The mother wept, not so much for the death of the child as for the fact that he had not yet been anointed by the sacrament of baptism. Finally, having taken advice, she went to the tomb of the blessed confessor, laid the sick child, who barely breathed, on the ground, and kept watch with vigils and prayers in front of the saint's tomb. Then, as the bird which announces the coming of day sang loudly and beat its wings, the child, who had been stretched out unconscious, awoke and shows by a laugh the joy of his heart; he opened his mouth and calls his mother, saying, "Come here!" She comes, full of fear as well as joy, for she had never heard the voice of her son before, and she was amazed. "What do you want," she says, "my own sweet son?" He replies, "Go quickly, and bring me a cup of water." But she remained motionless in prayer until daybreak, giving thanks to the holy bishop and consecrating her son to him; then she and, delivered from all infirmity, he recovered his health. Then he returned to the first wailings of infancy, and never spoke again until he reached that age at which children are accustomed to loosen their tongues in speech.

I do not think that I should be silent about what happened once when a furnace was lit to heat the lime for the church. The lintel which strengthened the opening of the furnace broke, while all those who were there, including the abbot of the place, were asleep. At that moment the abbot saw in a dream a bishop who said to him, "Hasten to awake those who sleep, in case the imminent collapse harms anyone. The lintel which holds up the mass of stones is about to fall into the fire." The abbot awoke, and made everyone stand clear of the entrance to the furnace, and the mass of stones fell on both sides without hurting anyone, which would not have happened, I think, without the intervention of the bishop. Then the abbot, after having prayed at the tomb of the saint, had the supports repaired and the stones replaced, and the work of the furnace could begin again, thanks to the bishop.

The blessed body of the confessor had formerly been buried in a crypt, but, as the building was narrow and difficult of access, St Avitus, bishop of the town, had built an apse of circular shape and admirable workmanship, and sought for the blessed bones, finding them in a coffin made of wooden planks. He took them up, wrapped them up in a suitable linen cloth, and, according to custom, enclosed them in a sarcophagus; he filled up the crypt and placed the sarcophagus at a higher level. In this place also Justus lies, a man just in both name and deed, who is said to have been the archdeacon of this glorious pontiff.

5. There are many other miracles reported of this same saint, which I thought would be too long to relate; I think that what I have said will suffice for a perfect faith, since the man for whom little things are not enough will not be convinced by great things. In fact, at the went into the house. The child drank the water which was given to him tomb of the saint the blind are given light, demons are chased away, the deaf receive hearing and the lame the use of their limbs, by the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who promises to believers that He will give to those who ask and who do not doubt the success of their prayers.


1. Avitus was Bishop of Clermont from c.572 to c.594.

2. He succeeded Legonus.

3. The emperor is Maximus (383-388), who plays an important role in Sulpicious Severus' Life of Saint Martin.

4. Tax-commutation of this kind was common from the late fourth century onwards.

5. He died in either 384 or 385, since Nepotianus was bishop of Clermont at the synod of Trier in 385. His death was celebrated on June 5; his tomb had a basilica built over it, probably in the fifth century, which was enlarged by Avitus in the 570s or 580s and survived until its burning by Pippin in 761.

6. Gallus was bishop from c.525 to 551.

7. The count of Clermont, possibly the successor to Firminus.

8. Including the relics of Saturninus, Julian and Martin, of Stephen, and of the pallium which had wrapped up the True Cross. The first year of Gregory's episcopate was 573/4.