vol II date / index
St. Dionysius, Bp. of Paris, and others, A. D. 272. St. Domninus, A. D. 304. St. Guislain, A. D. 681. St. Lewis Bertrand, A. D. 1581.
This is the patron saint of France, and his name stands in our almanacs and in the church of England calendar, as well as in the Romish calendar.
St. Denys had his head cut off, he did not care for that,
He took it up and carried it two miles without his hat.
"The times have been that when the brains were out the man would die;" they were "the times!" Yet, even in those times, except "the Anthrophagi, and men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders," men, whose heads grew upon their shoulders, wore them in that situation during their natural lives until by accident a head was taken off, and then infallibly "the man would die." But the extraordinary persons called "saints," were exempt from ordinary fatality: could all their sayings be recorded, we might probably find it was as usual for a decapitated saint to ask, "Won't you give me my head?" before he walked to be buried, as for an old citizen to call, "Boy, bring me my wig," before he walked to the club.
St. Denys was beheaded with some other martyrs in the neighbourhood of Paris. "They beheaded them," says the reverend father Ribadeneira, "in that mountain which is at present called Mons Martyrum (Montmartre), the mountain of the martyrs, in memory and honour of them; but after they had martyred them, there happened a wonderful miracle. The body of St. Denys rose upon its feet, and took its own head up in its hands, as if he had triumphed and carried in it the crown and token of its victories. The angels of heaven went accompanying the saint, singing hymns choir-wise, with a celestial harmony and concert, and ended with these words, 'gloria tibi, Domine alleluia;' and the saint went with his head in his hands about two miles, till he met with a good woman called Catula, who came out of her house; and the body of St. Denys going to her, it put the head in her hands." Perhaps this is as great a miracle as any he wrought in his life, yet those which he wrought after his death "were innumerable." Ribadeneira adds one in favour of pope Stephen, who "fell sick, and was given over by the doctors in the very monastery of St. Denys, which is near Paris; where he had a revelation, and he saw the princes of the apostles, St. Peter, and St. Paul, and St. Denys, who lovingly touched him and gave him perfect health, and this happened in the year or our Lord, 704, upon the 28th of July; and in gratitude for this favour he gave great privileges to that church of St. Denys, and carried with him to Rome certain relics of his holy body, and built a monastery in his honour."
It appears from an anecdote related by an eminent French physician, that it was believed of St. Denys that he kissed his head while he carried it; and it is equally marvellous that a man was so mad as not to believe it true. The circumstance is thus related:
"A famous watchmaker of Paris, infatuated for a long time with the chimera of perpetual motion, became violently insane, from the overwhelming terror which the storms of the revolution excited. The derangement of his reason was marked with a singular trait. He was persuaded that he had lost his head on the scaffold, and that it was put in a heap with those of many other victims: but that the judges, by a rather too late retraction of their cruel decree, had ordered the heads to be resumed, and to be rejoined to their respective bodies; and he conceived that, by a curious kind of mistake, he had the head of one of his companions placed on his shoulders. He was admitted into the Bicétre, where he was continually complaining of his misfortune, and lamenting the fine teeth and wholesome breath which he had exchanged for those of very different qualities. In a little time, the hopes of discovering the perpetual motion returned; and he was rather encouraged than restrained in his endeavours to effect his object. When he conceived that he had accomplished it, and was in an ecstasy of joy, the sudden confusion of a failure removed his inclination even to resume the subject. He was still, however, possessed with idea that his head was not his own: but from this notion he was diverted by a repartee made to him, when he happened to be defending the possibility of the miracle of St. Denys, who, it is said, was in the habit of walking with his head between his hands, and in the position continually kissing it. 'What a fool you are to believe such a story,' it was replied, with a burst of laughter; 'How could St. Denys kiss his head? was it with his heels?' This unanswerable and unexpected retort struck and confounded the madman so much, that it prevented him from saying any thing farther on the subject; he again betook himself to business, and entirely regained his intellects."*
St. Denys, as the great patron of France, is highly distinguished. "France," says bishop Patrick, "glories in the relics of this saint; yet Baronius tells us, that Ratisbonne in Germany has long contested with them about it, and show his body there; and pope Leo IX. set out a declaration determining that the true body of St. Denys was entire at Ratisbonne, wanting only the little finger of his right hand, yet they of Paris ceased not their pretences to it, so that here are two bodies venerated of the same individual saint; and both of them are mistaken if they of Prague have not been cheated, among whose numerous relics I find the arm of St. Denys, the apostle of Paris, reckoned." The bishop concludes by extracting part of Latin service, in honour of St. Denys, from the "Roman Missal,"* wherein the prominent miracle before alluded to is celebrated in the following words, thus rendered by the bishop into English:—
He fell indeed, but presently arose,
The breathless body find both feet and way,
He takes his head in hand, and forward goes,
Till the directing angels bid him stay.
Well may the church triumphantly proclaim
This martyr's death, and never dying fame.
Several devotional books contain prints representing St. Denys walking with his head in his hands. One of them, entitled "Le Tableau de la Croix, represente dans les Ceremonies de la Ste. Messe," consists of a hundred engravings by J. Collin,* and from one of them the "lively portraiture" of the saint prefixed to this article is taken.
Milky Agaric. Agaricus lactiflorus.
Dedicated to St. Denis. [sic]
Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:
1. Pinel on Insanity. [return]
2. Paris, 1520, folio. [return]
3. Imp. a Paris, 4to. [return]