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October 22, 2014

St. Eucharius

Saint-Eucharius

First Bishop of Trier. According to an ancient legend, he was one of the seventy-two disciples of Christ, and was sent to Gaul by St. Peter as bishop, together with the deacon Valerius and the subdeacon Maternus, to preach the Gospel. They came to the Rhine and to Elegia (Ehl) in Alsace, where Maternus died. His two companions hastened back to St. Peter and begged him to restore the dead man to life. St. Peter gave his pastoral staff to Eucharius, and, upon being touched with it, Maternus, who had been in his grave for forty days, returned to life. The Gentiles were then converted in large numbers.

After founding many churches the three companions went to Trier where the work of evangelization progressed so rapidly that Eucharius chose that city for his episcopal residence. Among other miracles related in the legend he raised a dead person to life. An angel announced to him his approaching death and pointed out Valerius as his successor. Eucharius died 8 Dec., having been bishop for twenty-five years, and was interred in the church of St. John outside the city. Valerius was bishop for fifteen years and was succeeded by Maternus, who had in the meantime founded the dioceses of Cologne and Tongres, being bishop altogether for forty years. The staff of St. Peter, with which he had been raised to life, was preserved at Cologne till the end of the tenth century when the upper half was presented to Trier, and was afterwards taken to Prague by Emperor Charles IV.

In the Middle Ages it was believed that the pope used no crozier, because St. Peter had sent his episcopal staff to St. Eucharius; Innocent III concurs in this opinion (De Sacrif. Missæ, I, 62). The same instance, however, is related of several other alleged disciples of St. Peter, and more recent criticism interprets the staff as the distinctive mark of an envoy, especially of a missionary. Missionaries in subsequent centuries, e.g. St. Boniface, were occasionally called ambassadors of St. Peter, the pope who sent them being the successor of Peter.

Moreover, in medieval times the foundation of a diocese was often referred to as early a date as possible, in order thereby to increase its reputation, perhaps also its rights. Thus Paris gloried in Dionysius Areopagita as its first bishop; similarly ancient origins were claimed by other Frankish dioceses. In time, especially through the ravages of the Normans, the more reliable earlier accounts were lost. When at a later period the lives of primitive holy founders, e.g. the saints of ancient Trier, came to be written anew, the gaps in tradition were filled out with various combinations and fanciful legends. In this way there originated in the monastery of St. Matthias near Trier the famous chronicle of Trier (Gesta Treverorum, ed. Waitz in Mon. Germ. Hist.; script., VIII, 111-174) in which there is a curious mixture of truth and error. It contains the account of the life of St. Eucharius given above. An amplification thereof, containing the lives of the three saints in question, is said to have been written by the monk Goldscher or Golscher, who lived in that monastery about the year 1130. From the “Gesta” the narrative passed unchallenged into numerous medieval works. More recent criticism has detected many contradictions and inaccuracies in these ancient records, and it is almost universally believed at present that, with few exceptions, the first Christian missionaries came to Gaul, to which Trier then belonged, not earlier than about 250. Following Hontheim, Calmet and others, the Bollandists, with Marx, Lütolf, and other historians refer these holy bishops of Trier to a period following 250, though not all of them consider this as fully established. The feast of St. Eucharius is celebrated on 8 Dec.