Benignus of Dijon

Benignus of Dijon

Infobox Saint
name=Saint Benignus of Dijon
birth_date=3rd century
death_date=3rd century
feast_day=November 1
venerated_in=Roman Catholic Church

titles=Bishop and martyr
attributes=dog, key
major_shrine=Basilica of Saint Benignus, Dijon

Saint Benignus of Dijon (3rd century) (in French, Saint Bénigne) was a martyr honored as the patron saint and first herald of Christianity of Dijon ("Divio"), an old city in the territory of the Gallic tribe of the Lingones ("civitas Lingonum", Langres). It is an historical fact that Benignus suffered martyrdom in a persecution of the 3rd century and was publicly honored as a martyr. His feast falls on November 1; his name stands under this date in the so-called "Martyrology of St. Jerome" [Ed. Rossi-Duchesne; cf. "Acta Sanctorum", November, I, 138.] .

Early in the 6th century no particulars concerning the person and life of Benignus were known at Dijon. He may have been a missionary priest from Lyon, martyred at Epagny under Aurelian, near Dijon, in the late 2nd century. [ [] ]

According to Gregory of Tours the common people reverenced his grave; but Bishop Saint Gregory of Langres (507 or 507-539 or 540) wished to put an end to this veneration, because he believed the grave to belong to a heathen. Having learned in a vision at night that the burial spot (once a large Roman cemetery) was that of the holy martyr Benignus, he had the tomb in which the sarcophagus lay restored, and he build a basilica over it. A larger church was built by its abbot William of Volpiano for Saint Benignus' Abbey, Dijon, his Cluniac monastery at the site. Benignus' church and tomb have survived an earthquake in 1280 and the French Revolution. His sarcophagus can still be seen in the crypt under Dijon Cathedral.

About this date there was a sudden appearance of "Acts" of the martyrdom of the saint, which were brought to Dijon by a pilgrim on the way to Italy ["Gregor. Tur., De gloriâ martyrum", I, li; Migne, "Patrologia Latina", LXXI, 752".] . These accounts have no historical basis; according to them St. Polycarp of Smyrna had sent Benignus as a missionary to Dijon, where he had labored as a priest and had finally died a martyr. For some unknown reason his death is placed in the persecution under Aurelian (270-275). The author had not noticed that the sending by Polycarp and the martyrdom under Aurelian are chronologically irreconcilable. Louis Duchesne has proved that these "Acts" belong to a whole group of legends which arose in the early years of the sixth century and were intended to describe the beginnings of Christianity in the cities of that region (Besançon, Autun, Langres, Valence). They are all falsifications by the same hand and possess no historical value.

The "Passio" of Saint Benignus

According to the 6th century legend, Saint Benignus was a native of Smyrna. Polycarp sent him, as well as another priest and a deacon, to preach the Gospel in Gaul. They were shipwrecked on Corsica but managed to make their way to Marseilles. They made their way up the Rhone River and the Saone. Reaching Autun, they converted the nobleman Symphorianus, who was later martyred for his faith as Saint Symphorian.

Benignus, now on his own, proselytized openly in different parts of Gaul, despite the persecution of Christians. Denounced to the authorities and put on trial, he refused to sacrifice to pagan deities or to Caesar, and refused to deny Christ. The authorities savagely tortured him but he did not change his mind. Eventually, Benignus was clubbed to death with a bar of iron.


On the seal of the abbey, Benignus of Dijon is depicted as having a dog by his side. He also holds a key.


External links

*en icon [ St. Benignus of Dijon] at the Catholic Encyclopedia
*en icon [ Saint Patrick's Church: Saints of November 1]
*en icon [

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