Encyclopedia Americana: Saint Denis

Also Saint Denys or Saint Dionysius, first bishop of Paris, and patron saint of the French nation. Exact information regarding Saint Denis cannot be obtained, but there is no doubt he belongs to the 3d century. In the Middle Ages it was believed by many that Saint Denis, or Dionysius, of Paris was the same as the Dionysius converted at Athens by Saint Paul; but the number of years intervening between the time of Saint Paul and when Saint Denis was bishop of Paris (about 207 years) is proof that the Areopagite of Athens and the apostle of Paris were not the same person. The most reliable authorities say that Saint Denis of Paris was sent by the Pope to Gaul about 250 A.d. His mission was most successful and many pagans were converted to Christianity. The number of his disciples attracted the attention of the Roman governor who caused the arrest of Denis and several of his companions, among whom were Eleutherius, a deacon, and Rusticus, a priest. The Christians, refusing to denounce Christ and offer sacrifice to the gods, were tortured and put to death. The bodies of Denis, the priest and the deacon were thrown into the Seine. Catulla, a Christian woman, recovered the bodies and gave them burial. Later a church was built over the place where the bodies were interred. Dagobert I built (about 636) here the abbey of Saint Denis. His feast, in the calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, is 9 October.