Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Prudentius, Bishop of Troyes, Confessor

Article

He was by birth a Spaniard; but fled from the swords of the infidels into France, where in 840, or 845, he was chosen bishop of Troyes. He was one of the most learned prelates of the Gallican church, and was consulted as an oracle. By his sermon on the Virgin Saint Maura, we are informed that, besides his other functions and assiduity in preaching, he employed himself in hearing confessions, and in administering the sacraments of the holy eucharist and extreme unction. In his time Gotescalc, a wandering monk of the abbey of Orbasis, in the diocess of Soissons, advanced, in his travels, the errors of predestinarianism, blasphemously asserting that reprobates were doomed by God to sin and hell, without the power of avoiding either. Nottinge, bishop either of Brescia or Verona, sent an information of these blasphemies to Rabanus Maurus, archbishop of Mentz, one of the most learned and holy men of that age, and who had, whilst abbot of Fulde, made that house the greatest nursery of science in Europe. Rabanus examined Gotescalc in a synod at Mentz in 848, condemned his errors, and sent him to his own metropolitan Hincmar, archbishop of Rheims, a prelate also of great learning and abilities. By him and Wenilo, archbishop of Sens, with several other prelates, the monk was again examined in a synod held at Quiercy on the Oise, in the diocess of Soissons, a royal palace of King Charles the Bald, in 849. Gotescalc being refractory, was condemned to be degraded from the priesthood, and imprisoned in the abbey of Haut-villiers in the diocess of Hincmar. By the advice of Saint Prudentius, whom Hincmar consulted, he was not deprived of the lay-communion till, after some time, Hincmar, seeing his obstinacy invincible, fulminated against him a sentence of excommunication, under which this unhappy author of much scandal and disturbance died, after twenty-one years of rigorous confinement, in 870. Some suspected Hincmar of leaning towards the contrary Semipelagian error against the necessity of divine grace; and Ratramnus of Corbie took up his pen against him. Saint Prudentius wrote to clear up the point, which seemed perplexed by much disputing, and to set the Catholic doctrine in a true light, showing on one side a free will in man, and that Christ died for the salvation of all men; and on the other, proving the necessity of divine grace, and that Christ offered up his death in a special manner for the salvation of the elect. When parties are once stirred up in disputes, it is not an easy matter to dispel the mist which prejudices and heat raise before their eyes. This was never more evident than on that occasion. Both sides agreed in doctrine, yet did not understand one another. Lupus Servatus, the famous abbot of Ferrieres, in Gatinois, Amolan, archbishop of Lyons, and his successor Saint Remigius, wrote against Rabanus and Hincmar, in defence of the necessity of divine grace, though they condemned the blasphemies of the predestinarians. Even Amolan of Lyons and his church, who seem to have excused Gotescalc in the beginning, because they had never examined him, always censured the errors condemned in him: for the divine predestination of the elect is an article of faith; but such a grace and predestination as destroy free-will in the creature, are a monstrous heresy. Neither did Saint Remigius of Lyons, nor Saint Prudentius, interest themselves in the defence of Gotescalc, which shows the inconsistency of those moderns, who, in our time, have undertaken his justification. In 853, Hincmar and other bishops published, in a second assembly at Quiercy, four Capitula, or assertions, to establish the doctrines of free-will, and of the death of Christ for all men. To these Saint Prudentius subscribed, as Hincmar and the annals of Saint Bertin testify. The church of Lyons was alarmed at these assertions, fearing they excluded the necessity of grace: and the council of Valence, in 855, in which Saint Remigius of Lyons presided, published six canons, explaining, in very strong terms, the articles of the necessity of grace, and of the predestination of God’s elect. Saint Prudentius procured the confirmation of these canons by Pope Nicholas I, in 859. Moreover, fearing the articles of Quiercy might be abused in favour of Pelagianism; though he had before approved them, he wrote his Tractatoria to confute the erroneous sense which they might bear in a Pelagian mouth, and to give a full exposition of the doctrine of divine grace. He had the greater reason to be upon his guard, seeing some, on the occasion of those disputes, openly renewed the Pelagian errors. John Scotus Erigena, an Irishman in the court of Charles the Bald, a subtle sophist, infamous for many absurd errors, both in faith and in philosophy, published a book against Gotescalc, On Predestination, in which he openly advanced the Semipelagian errors against grace, besides other monstrous heresies. Wenilo, archbishop of Sens, having extracted nineteen articles out of this book, sent them to his oracle Saint Prudentius, who refuted the entire book of Scotus by a treatise which is still extant. This saint, having exerted his zeal also for the discipline of the church, and the reformation of manners among the faithful, was named with Lupus abbot of Ferrieres, to superintend and reform all the monasteries of France; of which commission he acquitted himself with great vigour and prudence. He died on the 6th of April, 861, and is named in the Galilean martyrologies, though not in the Roman. At Troyes he is honoured with an office of nine lessons, and his relics are exposed in a shrine.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Prudentius, Bishop of Troyes, Confessor”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 2 April 2013. Web. 14 December 2018. <>