Benezet of Avignon

(c. 1163—1184)

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bridge-builder. A shepherd boy who was born at Hermillon in Savoy, he came to Avignon c.1178, where he was told in a vision to build a bridge over the river Rhone. First he met with incredulity from the bishop, but he made a start with some lay helpers and eventually won the bishop's support. By the time of his death the bridge was not yet complete, but it was finished a few years later. A chapel was built on it, inside which Benezet's body was buried. There it remained for nearly 500 years until in 1669, when part of the bridge was washed away, his coffin was recovered and his body was found to be incorrupt. It was subsequently translated to Avignon cathedral and in the 19th century to the Celestines' church of Saint Didier.

Contemporary evidence records the principal episodes of Benezet's life, into which an episcopal enquiry was made in 1230. From 1189 the guild of Bridge Brothers claimed him as their patron; so too did the town of Avignon. Feast: 14 April.

Documents in AA.SS. April. II (1675), 255–64;H.S.S.C., vi. 269;B.L.S., iv. 99;Bibl. SS., ii. 1099–1100.

Subjects: Christianity.

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