DENIS (Dionysius), SAINT, first bishop of Paris, patron saint of France. According to Gregory of Tours (Hist. Franc. i. 30), he was sent into Gaul at the time of the emperor Decius. He suffered martyrdom at the village of Catulliacus, the modern St Denis. His tomb was situated by the side of the Roman road, where rose the priory of St-Denis-de-l'Estrée, which existed until the 18th century. In the 5th century the clergy of the diocese of Paris built a basilica over the tomb. About 625 Dagobert, son of Lothair II., founded in honour of St Denis, at some distance from the basilica, the monastery where the greater number of the kings of France have been buried. The festival of St Denis is celebrated on the 9th of October. With his name are already associated in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum the priest Rusticus and the deacon Eleutherius. Other traditions - of no value - are connected with the name of St Denis. A false interpretation of Gregory of Tours, apparently dating from 724, represented St Denis as having received his mission from Pope Clement, and as having suffered martyrdom under Domitian (81-96). Hilduin, abbot of St-Denis in the first half of the 9th century, identified Denis of Paris with Denis (Dionysius) the Areopagite (mentioned in Acts xviii. 34), bishop of Athens (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. iii. 4. 10, iv. 23. 3), and naturally attributed to him the celebrated writings of the pseudo-Areopagite. St Denis is generally represented carrying his head in his hands.
See Acta Sanctorum, Octobris, iv. 696-987; Bibliotheca hagiographica graeca, p. 37 (Brussels, 1895); Bibliotheca hagiographica latina, No. 2171-2203 (Brussels, 1899); J. Havet, Les Origines de Saint-Denis, in his collected works, i. 191-246 (Paris, 1896); Cahier, Caractéristiques des saints, p. 761 (Paris, 1867). (H. De.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)