Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume II: February. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Avitus, Archbishop of Vienne, Confessor
ST. ALCIMUS ECDITIUS AVITUS was of a senatorian Roman family, but born in Auvergne. His father Isychius was chosen archbishop of Vienne upon the death of St. Mammertus, and was succeeded in that dignity by our saint, in 490. Ennodius, in his life of St. Epiphanius of Pavia, says of him, that he was a treasure of learning and piety; and adds, that when the Burgundians had crossed the Alps, and carried home many captives out of Liguria, this holy prelate ransomed a great number. Clovis, king of France, whilst yet a pagan, and Gondebald, king of Burgundy, though an Arian, held him in great veneration. This latter, for fear of giving offence to his subjects, durst not embrace the Catholic faith, yet gave sufficient proofs that he was convinced of the truth by our saint, who, in a public conference, reduced the Arian bishops to silence in his presence, at Lyons. Gondebald died in 516. His son and successor, Sigismund was brought over by St. Avitus to the Catholic faith. In 517, our saint presided in the famous council of Epaone, (now called Yenne,) upon the Rhone, in which forty canons of discipline were framed. When king Sigismund had imbrued his hands in the blood of his son Sigeric, upon a false charge brought against him by a stepmother, St. Avitus inspired him with so great a horror of his crime, that he rebuilt the abbey of Agaunum, or St. Maurice, became a monk, and died a saint. Most of the works of St. Avitus are lost; we have yet his poem on the praises of virginity, to his sister Fuscina, a nun, and some others; several epistles; two homilies on the Rogation days; and a third on the same, lately published by Dom Martenne;1 fragments of eight other homilies: his conference against the Arians is given us in the Spicilege.2 St. Avitus died in 525, and is commemorated in the Roman Martyrology on the 5th of February; and in the collegiate church of our Lady at Vienne, where he was buried, on the 20th of August. Ennodius, and other writers of that age, extol his learning, his extensive charity to the poor, and his other virtues. See St. Gregory of Tours, Hist. l. 2. His works, and his life in Henschenius;3 and Gallia Christ. Nova, t. 2. p. 242.
Note 3. F. Sirmond published the works of St. Avitus, with judicious short notes, in 8vo. 1643. See them in Sirmonds works, t. 2. and Bibl. Patr. His close manner of confuting the Arians in some of his letters, makes us regret the loss of many other works, which he wrote against them. [back]