Saturninus Dragged to Death

Dan Graves, MSL

Saturninus Dragged to Death

This is the one who preaches everywhere that our temples must be torn down and who dares to call our gods devils. It is his presence that imposes silence on our oracles." A man in the crowd outside the pagan temple pointed to Saturninus.

Saturninus was in Toulouse as a missionary-bishop by command of Bishop Fabian of Rome. To get from his home to his small church, he had to pass by the Capitol, the chief pagan temple in the town.

Through preaching and miracles, Saturninus converted a number of idolaters. Later accounts, which may be legendary, say that a woman with an advanced case of leprosy was restored when Saturninus' prayed for her. When he made the sign of the cross over large numbers of the sick, they also were healed.

No doubt their loss of trade stung the pagan priests. The best evidence we have suggests that it was on this day, November 29, 257, as Saturninus passed by the Capitol, temple leaders seized and chained him. They gave him an ultimatum: either worship their gods or pay with his blood.

Without hesitation, Saturninus replied, "I adore one only God, and to him I am ready to offer a sacrifice of praise. Your gods are devils, and are more delighted with the sacrifice of your souls than with those of your bullocks." He added, "How can I fear them who, as you acknowledge, tremble before a Christian?"

Outraged by this reply, the pagans began to whip the bishop. When they had vented their spite upon him in all sorts of humiliating and cruel acts, they looked for a way to kill him.

A bull had been brought in for sacrifice. They tied him to the animal and set it loose. The maddened creature dashed through town, dragging the faithful bishop to his death. It continued to gallop until the ropes broke.

Two faithful women rescued what was left of the bishop's battered body and hid it in a deep ditch so that the pagans could not vent their spite on it. Later, Christians gave his body an honorable burial.

Within two centuries, Christians of Toulouse built a church at the very spot where the ropes had broken and allowed Saturninus' corpse to come to rest. It remains to this day and is called the church of the Taur "The Church of the Bull." This day, November 29, is the feast day of saint Saturninus.

Bibliography:

  1. Butler, Alban. "Saturninus." Lives of the Saints. Various editions.
  2. Degert, Antoine. "St. Saturninus." Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton, 1914.
  3. "Saint Saturninus, Bishop and Martyr." Patron Saint Index. http://magnificat.ca/cal/engl/11-29.htm.
  4. "St. Saturninus." Catholic Online Saints. http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=802.

Last updated June, 2007

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