Saints of the Day – Benignus of Dijon

statue of Saint Bénigne, Martyr; sculptor unknown; photograph taken by Jochen Jahnke; swiped off WikipediaArticle

3rd Century. The cultus of this martyr began in the early 6th century with the discovery of an ancient tomb at Dijon. Subsequently, a Passio of Saint Benignus made its appearance; it was said to have had its origin in Italy, but the story it tells is manifestly spurious in all its versions. There is a remote possibility that Benignus was a missionary priest from Lyons, martyred at Epagny, near Dijon, in the late second century (probably under Aurelian, 270-275).

According to the 6th century legend, Saint Benignus, along with another priest and a deacon, were sent by Saint Polycarp to preach the Gospel in Gaul. Their adventures included being shipwrecked at Corsica, landing at Marseilles and making their way perilously up the rivers Rhone and Saone. They reached Autun, where Benignus converted a nobleman who later was martyred (Saint Symphorianus).

He and his companions separated, to evangelize different parts of Gaul. He worked openly, despite the danger to Christians. Inevitably Benignus was denounced to the authorities and put on trial. He refused to sacrifice to pagan idols or to Caesar. He refused to deny Christ. Attempts were made to make him change his mind by savage tortures. Eventually he was put to death.

His impressive sarcophagus can still be seen in the crypt under the cathedral at Dijon in what was a large Roman cemetery. In the 6th century, Saint Gregory of Langres built a basilica and monastery on the site. William of Volpiano built a larger church there for his Cluniac monastery, which revived monasticism in Normandy in the 11th century. The church and the tomb of Saint Benignus have survived an earthquake (1280) and the French Revolution (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Farmer).

Roeder says there it is difficult to sort out the graphic attributes of several Benignus’s. It appears, however, the Benignus of Dijon, on the seal of the abbey, is represented as having a dog by him and holding a key (Roeder). A late medieval carved cantor’s staff of Benignus, depicting his fingers as damaged during his martyrdom, remains at Dijon (Farmer).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 7 August 2020. Web. 25 November 2020. <>