St. Julian of Brioude

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Saint Julian of Brioude was a 4th-century martyr from the Auvergne region of France. Although the main focus of his worship was in the small village of Brioude, he was originally from the city of Vienne, and also associated with Clermont. He was most famous through his association with an aristocratic family of bishops of the time, his most notable proponents being St. Gallus of Clermont and St. Gregory of Tours (the latter best known for his Ten Books of Histories). Gregory wrote a vita of Julian, but his attempts to expand the saint's cult from the Auvergne to Touraine and Aquitaine were unsuccessful, and Julian is now only remembered through his basilica in the town of Brioude itself.

Life and martyrdom[edit]

Little is known of the life of St. Julian. The persecution in Vienne, under the auspices of the Governor Crispinus (although this is disputed) at the time forced him to leave the town, as advised by his friend and fellow saint, the Tribune Ferréol.[1] He also feared that his parents might prevent the martyrdom he longed for.[2] He hid in the house of a poor woman within the region of Clermont, but upon hearing pagans nearby, he revealed himself, and presented himself for execution. Having decapitated the saint, his executioners took his head to Vienne, leaving the body to be buried in Brioude by two old men, who received an invigorating miracle that made them feel young again thereafter.


This was simply the first of a series of miracles, healing several people (including St. Gallus, St. Gregory and Gregory's brother Peter)[3] of various afflictions, punishing the wicked, and even defeating the armies of King Theuderic I during the 'Ravaging of the Auvergne'.[4] After this episode, the miracles stopped being focused solely on Brioude and its environs, as St. Julian's relics were redistributed. The geographical distribution spread rapidly, to the East, to Rheims, to Tours, and to the monastery of Limoges.[5] The instigation of rogations by Bishop Gall, and the elevation of his nephew, Gregory to the Bishopric of Tours evidently influenced the attempt to take what was essentially a regional cult to which the Bishops felt indebted, and to increase its influence.[6]


St. Julian's cult survived until at least the 13th century, but was confined to Brioude once more. His legacy survives now only in the high medieval Basilica (erected c. 1100-1400), and the miracle stories written by Gregory of Tours.


  1. ^ 'The Sufferings of the Martyr St. Julian' II, in Raymond Van Dam, Saints and their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, 1993), p. 197.
  2. ^ Gregory of Tours, 'The Suffering and Miracles of the Martyr St. Julian' I, in Raymond Van Dam, Saints and their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, 1993).
  3. ^ Gregory of Tours, 'Suffering and Miracles', XXIII-XXV
  4. ^ Gregory of Tours, Suffering and Miracles III-XXXI.
  5. ^ Gregory of Tours, 'Suffering and Miracles', XXXII-XXXXX.
  6. ^ Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks tr. Lewis Thorpe (London, 1974), IV.5.