Saint of the Day – 8 February – St Paul of Verdun (c 576-c 648) Bishop of Verdun, in the Lorraine region of France from 630 until his death., Abbot. Patronage – Verdun, bakers and pastry chefs. Also known as St Paulus of Verdun.
The Roman Martyrology states: “At Verdun in France, St Paulus, Bishop renowned for miracles.”
Paul was the son of a wealthy family – his name suggests that he was part of the old Gallo-Roman aristocracy. According to St Augustine Abbey’s Book of Saints, Paulus was the brother of Saint Germanus of Paris, although in St Germanus’s Vita we find no reference to a brother, not that this is decisive, considering the little information we have of our ancient Saints.
Paul became a hermit and spent time in the mountains of Paulsberg (named for him in modern France), near Trier in modern Germany. Later he became a Monk at the Monastery at Tholey, Germany, where he was firstly appointed as the Master of the School and then the second Abbot.
In around 630, Paul was named the Bishop of Verdun, by King Dagobert I. According to his Vita he was made Bishop against his will and due to the influence of one of his students, Adalgisel Grimo. Reportedly he found the Diocese in a very poor financial state and was aided by grants from said Adalgisel and the Frankish King of Austrasia.
One of his numerous miracles relates, that as Paul was working in the bakery in the Abbey of Tholey when the oven became clogged with ash and malfunctioned. He feared that the bread would not be ready in time for the meal, so he climbed into the burning oven in full habit, cleaned it with his hood, arranged the loaves to be baked and later emerged from the oven with the fully baked loaves. Because of this miracle, Paulus became the Patron Saint of bakers and pastry chefs. On his feast day the “bread of Saint Paul” is distributed annually on the streets of Verdun.
Paul died in c 648 and was buried in the Church of St Saturninus in Verdun, which he had built and which was later renamed St Paul’s after him.
The Abbey of Saint-Paul de Verdun, founded by Bishop Viefrid from 970 to 973 was dedicated to him.
In addition, the “Paul-Cross” was erected in stone a few kilometers from Verdun, at a place called “Le Rozelier”. The Bishop Saint represented there was recognisable as Saint Paulus from the bread that he is holding. The Plague beneath this Cross states:
“In the late Ninth Century, the Monks of Tholey translated to their Abbey in Saarland the relics of Saint Paul, Bishop of Verdun, a former Monk of Tholey Abbey, in order to evade the Norman invasion. Here they were stopped by a mysterious and miraculous force. A cross was erected in this place, commemorating the miraculous event and is called the Paul Cross. The Abbey of Saint-Vanne de Verdun established a Priory there in the 12th century. The current Cross and the Altar, which contains a relic of St Paul, were blessed by Monseigneur Petit, Bishop of Verdun, on 14 August 1963.”
Added to the ramparts of the City of Verdun in the Nineteenth Century is a gate called “St Paul’s Gate.” iI is composed of two arched passages (entry and exit), each one protected by a drawbridge. The Gate allowed the Army conscripts arriving at the Station to enter the City centre and reach the Jeanne d’Arc Barracks. In the 1920s the ramparts around the lower City, weakened by the bombardments of 1916, were pulled down. The only surviving remnants are the Saint-Paul Gate along with the Tour Chaussée. The former has been decorated with commemorative plaques dedicated to victory in the Battle of Verdun and to the reconstruction of the City., believed, of course, to be due to the prayers of their people for the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin of Verdun and the beloved St Paul.