Front Matter France Long Ago The Gauls In France The Priests of the Gauls Sailor Stories Conquests of the Gauls Two Great Battles Caesar in Gaul Gaul under the Romans First Christian Martyrs Patron Saint of France Franks Come to Gaul The First Kings Conquests of Clovis Clotaire and His Relatives Two Rival Queens Good King Dagobert The Saracens Checked End of the Merovingians Charlemagne's Wars Charlemagne's Manners Charlemagne, Emperor Feudalism Troublesome Sons The Strassburg Oath Normans Besiege Paris Last of the Carolingians The Year One Thousand Robert's Two Wives Wealth of the Clergy The First Crusade A Love Story The Second Crusade More Crusades The Battle of Bouvines Blanche of Castile The Sixth Crusade The Reign of Louis IX Effect of the Crusades The Battle of the Spurs End of Knights Templar The Hundred Years' War The Siege of Calais The Battle of Poitiers Seven Years of Misery The Brave du Guesclin Achievements of Charles V Charles VI Misrule in France The Disgraceful Treaty Joan to the Rescue Orleans and Rheims Joan's Martyrdom Charles's Successes The Crafty King Louis XI Louis XI's Reign Achievements of Louis XI Charles VIII The Second Italian War Death of Louis XII Francis I Rivalry of Kings Achievements of Francis I End of Francis's Reign Reign of Henry II A Young King and Queen Catherine's Regency The Forced Wedding Massacre of the Huguenots Death of Charles IX An Effeminate King he Battle of Coutras The Murder of the Guises Winning a Crown Conversion of Henry IV Henry IV's Second Marriage Death of Henry IV The Minority of Louis XIII Rule of the Favorites Richelieu and Louis XIII End of Louis XIII's Reign Beginning of a Great Reign Wars of the Fronde Death of Mazarin Versailles The Iron Mask Louis XIV's Campaigns Madame de Maintenon Later Wars of Louis XIV The Spanish Succession The Age of Louis XIV

Story of Old France - Helene Guerber

The Patron Saint of France

Although widely scattered by persecution, the remaining Christians in Gaul proved true to their faith. When the persecution was over, some came back to Lyons, where they began to preach again, and won many converts; for many people, who had hesitated until then, could not help believing in a religion which gave old men and delicate girls as much courage, even under torture, as any soldier had ever shown on the field of battle.

A new preacher, Ireneus, bishop of Lyons, was so good and holy that even during his lifetime he was called a saint, and as he was very learned too, he is known as the "Light of the West," and is considered one of the Fathers of the Church. Ireneus taught until he perished in the second persecution, which took place about twenty-five years after the first.

Another early bishop was St. Denis who went to Paris, then only a very small city on an island in the Seine. St. Denis preached so successfully here, that when the second persecution began, he was head of a thriving church, built on the very spot where Notre Dame now stands, and where Jupiter's temple had once been erected. Three hundred of his disciples bravely suffered great tortures with him, and then were beheaded on a hill which now forms part of the city, and which is still known as the Martyrs' Hill (Montmartre).



A good woman is said to have buried the holy bishop's remains where the church of St. Denis now stands. A wonderful legend soon arose about him, to the effect that, when his head was struck off, he arose and picked it up and walked some distance away with it! For this reason he is often shown in paintings and sculptures with his severed head held in his hands. St. Denis is the patron saint of France, and his name was the watchword for French soldiers for many centuries; so his burial place has always been greatly honored, his bones regarded as sacred relics, and his real life and death are often represented in art, although not so frequently as the queer legend which you have just heard.

There were ten awful persecutions in Gaul in about two hundred and fifty years. During that time many martyrs in different places were persecuted, and if you were to hear all they endured, you would see how very brave they were, and why so many people hold their names in such great honor.

One of the most noted converts of the fourth century was the man since known as St. Martin. It seems that he was a handsome and rich young Roman officer, who was almost ready to accept the Christian faith, when the following adventure happened to him in Gaul.

One cold night, on riding home from a feast, wrapped in a fine new cavalry cloak, he saw a poor beggar shivering with the cold. The young officer, who had a very feeling heart, quickly drew his sword, and cutting his big cape in two, gave half of it to the beggar to keep him warm. That night, in a dream, Martin saw Jesus wearing the half cloak he had given the beggar, and heard him tell the angels that his servant Martin, although not baptized, had nevertheless obeyed his command to clothe the naked.

When Martin awoke, he asked to be baptized; soon after, he left the army, and, entering the Church, became bishop of Tours. He preached to such good purpose that there were soon no heathen left in Gaul, and he and his disciples destroyed all the old pagan temples and altars left there.

The place where St. Martin was buried became holy, and for many years no criminal could be touched as long as he was within the sacred enclosure at Tours. Unlike St. Denis, St. Martin died a natural death, for Christian persecutions came to an end when one of the Roman Emperors became a Christian (312).