Thursday, 20 September 2012


“Valour is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul.” - Michel de Montaigne

Saint Eustace, also known as St Eustathius, was a Christian martyr who lived in the 2nd century AD. The saint is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church and is also commemorated in the Orthodox Church, on September 20.
According to legend, prior to his conversion to Christianity, Eustace was a Roman general named Placidus, who served the emperor Trajan. While hunting a stag in Tivoli near Rome, Placidus saw a vision of Jesus crucified, between the stag’s antlers. He was immediately converted, had himself and his family baptised, and changed his name to Eustace (Greek: Ευστάθιος - Eustathios, “most stable”, or Ευστάχιος, Eustachios, “rich crop”).

A series of calamities followed to test his faith: His wealth was stolen; his servants died of a plague; when the family took a sea voyage, the ship’s captain kidnapped Eustace’s wife Theopista; and as Eustace crossed a river with his two sons Agapius and Theopistus, the children were taken away by a wolf and a lion. Like Job, Eustace lamented but did not lose his faith. He was then quickly restored to his former prestige and reunited with his family; but when he demonstrated his new faith by refusing to make a pagan sacrifice, the emperor, Hadrian, condemned Eustace, his wife, and his sons to be roasted to death inside a bronze statue of a bull or an ox, in the year AD 118. The d’Afflitto dynasty, one of the oldest princely families in Italy, claims to be the direct descendant of Saint Eustace.

He is one of the patron saints of Madrid, Spain. Scenes from the story, especially Eustace kneeling before the stag, became a popular subject of medieval religious art. Early artistic depictions of the legend include a wall painting at Canterbury Cathedral and stained glass windows at the Cathedral of Chartres. He is considered to be the patron saint of hunters.

St Eustache in Paris is a church in the 1st arrondissement. The present building was built between 1532 and 1632. Situated at the entrance to Paris’s ancient markets (Les Halles) and the beginning of rue Montorgueil, St Eustache is considered a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. The church’s reputation was strong enough of the time for it to be chosen as the location for a young Louis XIV to receive communion. Mozart also chose the sanctuary as the location for his mother’s funeral. Among those baptised here as children were Richelieu, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, future Madame de Pompadour and Molière, who was also married here in the 17th century. The last rites for Anne of Austria, Turenne and Mirabeau were pronounced within its walls. Marie de Gournay is buried there. The island of Sint Eustatius in the Caribbean Netherlands is named after him.

The Catholic church also celebrates a second St Eustace. While his date of birth unknown, it is recorded he died 29 March, 625 AD. He was second abbot of the Irish monastery of Luxeuil in France, and his feast is commemorated in the Celtic martyrologies on the 29th of March. He was one of the first companions of St. Columbanus, a monk of Bangor (Ireland), who with his disciples did much to spread the Gospel over Central and Southern Europe. When Columbanus, the founder of Luxeuil, was banished from the Kingdom of Burgundy, on account of his reproving the morals of King Thierry, the exiled abbot recommended his community to choose Eustace as his successor.

1 comment:

  1. i have been in that church in Paris, and it was a superb experience, sombre darkness, highlighted throughout with splashes of sunshine filtering through stained glass windows
    and flickering shadows from a hundred candles adorning altars