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Eleutherius (Fr. Eleutière), Saint, Bishop of Tournai at the beginning of the sixth century. Historically there is very little known about St. Eleutherius, but he was without doubt the first Bishop of Tournai. Theodore, whom some give as his immediate predecessor, was either a bishop of Tours, whose name was placed by mistake on the episcopal list of Tournai, or simply a missionary who ministered to the Christians scattered throughout the small Frankish Kingdom of Tournai. Before he became bishop, Eleutherius lived at court with his friend Medardus, who predicted that he would attain the dignity of a count and also be elevated to the episcopate. After Clovis, King of the Franks, had been converted to Christianity, in 496, with more than 3000 of his subjects, bishops took part in the royal councils. St. Remigius, Bishop of Reims, organized the Catholic hierarchy in Northern Gaul, and it is more than likely that St. Eleutherius was named Bishop of Tournai at this time.
The saint's biography in its present form was really an invention of Henri of Tournai in the twelfth century. According to this, Eleutherius was born at Tournai towards the end of the reign of Childeric, the father of Clovis, of a Christian family descended from Irene us, who had been baptized by St. Piatus. His father's name was Terenus, and his mother's Blanda. Persecution by the tribune of the Scheldt obliged the Christians to flee from Tournai and take refuge in the village of Blandinium. The conversion of Clovis, however, enabled the small community to reassemble and build at Blandinium a church, which was dedicated to St. Peter. Theodore was made Bishop of Tournai, and Eleutherius succeeded him. Consulted by Pope Hormisdas as to the best means of eradicating the heresy which threatened nascent Christianity, Eleutherius convened a synod and publicly confounded the heretics. They vowed vengeance, and as he was on his way to the church, one day, they fell on him and, after beating him unmercifully, left him for dead. He recovered, however, but his days were numbered. On his deathbed (529) he confided his flock to his lifelong friend, St. Medardus.
The motive underlying this biography invented by Canon Henri (1141), was to prove the antiquity of the Church of Tournai, which from the end of the eleventh century had been trying to free itself from the jurisdiction of the bishops of Noyon. The sermons on the Trinity, Nativity, and the feast of the Annunciation (Bibliotheca Patrum, vol. XV), sometimes attributed to St. Eleutherius, are also of a more than doubtful authenticity. His cult, however, is well established; there is record of a recovery of his relics during the episcopate of Hedilo in 897 or 898, and a translation of them by Bishop Baudoin in 1064 or 1065, and another in 1247. Relics of this saint were also preserved in the monastery of St. Martin at Tournai, and in the cathedral at Bruges. His feast is given in martyrologies on 20 or July 21, but is usually celebrated on the former date. The translation of his relics is commemorated August 25.
L. VAN DER ESSEN
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