Saint of the Day – 20 February – Saint Eleutherius of Tournai (c 456-532) the first Bishop of Tournai, Martyr. Confessor. Born in c 456 at Tournai, western Belgium and died by being murdered by Arian heretics in 532 while leaving his Church in Tournai. Additional Memorial – 25 August (translation of relics). He was a lifelong friend of St. Medard (c 456-545) and the two saints had been courtiers before becoming Bishops. (St Medard’s life here: https://anastpaul.com/2020/06/08/saint-of-the-day-8-june-saint-medard-c-456-545-bishop/).
Eleutherius is venerated as a Martyr although this legend is considered an invention of the Canon Priest Henri of Tournai, who wrote a Vita of Eleutherius in 1141. At the end of the 11th century the Church of Tournai had been trying to become independent from the Diocese of Noyon and Henri had been motivated by the need to prove the antiquity of the Church of Tournai.
Henri’s account states that Eleutherius was a native of Tournai who was born during the reign of Childeric I. Eleutherius’ parents were Christians and were named Terenus and Blanda; Terenus was a descendant in the family of Irenaeus of Lyons. Persecutions of Christians forced the family to flee to a village named Blandain but after the conversion of Clovis to Christianity, the family built a Church at Blandain.
Eleutherius eventually became Bishop of Tournai and was consulted by Pope Hormisdas on the matter of eradicating Arianism. Eleutherius convened a Church Council and argued effectively against the Arians, who were angered by this.
One day, as he was going to his Cathedral Church, he was beaten by a group of Arians and left for dead. He subsequently died from the wounds he received, on his death-bed confiding, his flock to St Medard.
There exists a testimony recording the recovery of his relics during the episcopate of Bishop Hedilo of Tournai, in 897 or 898. Bishop Baudoin translated Eleutherius’ relics in 1064 or 1065. Eleutherius’ relics were translated again in 1247, when the great reliquary shrine was commissioned by Bishop Walter de Marvis. In its gable end. St Eleutherius appears, holding his crozier in one hand and in the other a model of the Cathedral with its five spires.
The Monastery of St. Martin at Tours and the Cathedral of Bruges, also claimed some of the saint’s relics.