Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Lupus, Bishop of Troyes, Confessor

Article

A.D. 478

Saint Lupus, called in the French Saint Leu, was born of a noble family at Toul, and being learned and eloquent, pleaded at the bar for some years with great reputation. He married Pimeniola, a virtuous sister of Saint Hilary of Arles. After six years spent in holy wedlock, fired with an ardent desire of serving God with greater perfection, they parted by mutual consent, and made a mutual vow of perpetual continency. Lupus betook himself to the famous abbey of Lerins, then governed by Saint Honoratus. He lived there a year, and added many austerities to those prescribed by the rule, yet always regulated his fervour by the advice of Saint Honoratus. He sold great part of his estate for the benefit of the poor, when he renounced the world. After the first year, when Saint Honoratus was made bishop of Arles, he went to Macon in Burgundy to dispose of an estate he had left there in charitable uses. He was preparing to return to Lerins when he was met by the deputies of the church of Troyes, which, upon the death of Saint Ursus, in 426, had chosen him bishop, the eighth from Saint Amator, founder of this see. His resistance was to no purpose, and he was consecrated by the prelates of the province of Sens. In this dignity he continued the same practices of humility, mortification, and as much as possible even of poverty. He never wore any other garments than a sackcloth and a single tunic, lay upon boards, and alloted every second night entire to watching in prayer. He often passed three days without taking any nourishment, and after so rigorous a fast allowed himself nothing but a little barley bread. Thus he lived above twenty years; labouring at the same time in all his pastoral functions with a zeal worthy an apostle.

About the latter end of the fourth century, Pelagius, a British monk, and Celestius a Scot, broached their heresy in Africa, Italy, and the East, denying the corruption of human nature by original sin, and the necessity of divine grace. One Agricola, a disciple of these heresiarchs, had spread this poison in Britain. The Catholics addressed themselves to their neighbours the bishops of Gaul, begging their assistance to check the growing evil. An assembly of bishops, probably held at Arles in 429, deputed Saint Germanus of Auxerre and Saint Lupus of Troyes, to go over into our island to oppose this mischief. The two holy pastors, burning with zeal for the glory of Christ, accepted the commission the more willingly as it seemed laborious and painful. They came over and entirely banished the heresy by their prayers, preaching, and miracles. Saint Lupus, after his return, set himself with fresh vigour to reform the manners of his own flock. In this he displayed such great prudence and piety, that Saint Sidonius Apollinaris calls him: “The father of fathers and bishop of bishops, the chief of the Gallican prelates, the rule of manners, the pillar of truth, the friend of God, and the intercessor to him for men.” He spared no pains to save one lost sheep, and his labours were often crowned with a success which seemed miraculous. Among other instances it is recorded that a certain person of his diocess, named Gallus, had forsaken his wife and withdrawn to Clermont. Saint Lupus could not see this soul perish, but wrote to Saint Sidonius, then bishop of Clermont, a strong letter so prudently tempered with sweetness, that Gallus by reading it was at once terrified and persuaded, and immediately set out to return to his wife. Upon which Saint Sidonius cried out: “What is more wonderful than a single reprimand, which both affrights a sinner into compunction, and makes him love his censor!” This letter of Saint Lupus and several others are lost; but we have one by which he congratulated Sidonius upon his promotion to his see, having passed from a secular prefecture or government to the episcopacy, which charge he shows to be laborious, difficult, and dangerous. He strongly exhorts him, above all things, to humility. This letter was written in 471, and is given us by D’Achery.

God at that time afflicted the western empire with grievous calamities, and Attila with a numberless army of Huns overran Gaul, calling himself, “The Scourge of God,” to punish the sins of the people. Rheims, Cambray, Besançon, Auxerre, and Langres had already felt the effects of his fury, and Troyes was the next place threatened. The holy bishop had recourse to God in behalf of his people by fervent prayer, which he continued for many days, prostrate on the ground, fasting and weeping without intermission. At length putting on his bishop’s attire, full of confidence in God, he went out to meet the barbarian at the head of his army. Attila, though an infidel, seeing him, was moved to reverence the man of God, who came up to him boldly, followed by his clergy in procession, with a cross carried before them. He spoke to the king first, and asked him who he was? “I am,” said Attila, “the scourge of God.” “Let us respect whatever comes to us from God,” replied the bishop; “but if you are the scourge with which heaven chastises us, remember you are to do nothing but what that almighty hand, which governs and moves you, permits.” Attila, struck with these words, promised the prelate to spare the city. Thus the saint’s prayer was a better defence than the most impregnable ramparts. It protected a city which had neither arms, nor garrison, nor walls, against an army of at least four hundred thousand men, which, after plundering Thrace, Illyricum, and Greece, crossing the Rhine, had filled with blood and desolation the most flourishing countries of France. Attila, turning with his army from Troyes, was met on the plains of Chalons by Aëtius, the brave Roman general, and there defeated. In his retreat he sent for Saint Lupus, and caused him to accompany him as far as the Rhine, imagining that the presence of so great a servant of God would be a safeguard to himself and his army; and sending him back he recommended himself to his prayers. This action of the good bishop was misconstrued by the Roman generals, as if he had favoured the escape of the barbarian, and he was obliged to leave Troyes for two years. He spent that time in religious retirement, in great austerity and continual contemplation. When his charity and patience had at length overcome the envy and malice of men, he went back to his church, which he governed fifty-two years, dying in the year 479. The chief part of his body is kept in a rich silver shrine; his skull and principal part of his head in another far more precious, in the figure of a bishop, formed of silver, adorned with jewels and diamonds, said by some to be the richest in France. Both are in the abbatial church of regular canons of Saint Austin, which bears the name of Saint Lupus. He was first buried in the church of Saint Martin in Areis, of the same Order, then out of the walls, though long since within them. Many churches in England bear his name. The family name of Sentlow among us is derived from Saint Leu, as Camden remarks.

It was by powerful prayer that the saints performed such great wonders. By it Moses could ward off the destruction of many thousands, and by a kind of holy violence disarm the divine vengeance. By it Elias called down fire and rain from heaven. By it Manasses in chains found mercy, and recovered his throne; Ezechias saw his health restored, and life prolonged: the Ninivites were preserved from destruction; Daniel was delivered from the lions, Saint Peter from his chains, and Saint Thecla from the fire. By it Judith and Esther saved God’s people. By the same have the servants of God so often commanded nature, defeated armies, removed mountains, cast out devils, cured the sick, raised the dead, drawn down divine blessings, and averted the most dreadful judgments from the world, which, as an ancient father says, subsists by the prayers of the saints.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Lupus, Bishop of Troyes, Confessor”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. Saints.SQPN.com. 27 July 2013. Web. 16 April 2014. <>