Nicetius of Trier

(d. 561)

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Martin of Tours (c. 316—397)


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Bishop (d. 561).

Described by Gregory of Tours as ‘strong in preaching, fearsome in reproving and constant in teaching’, Nicetius was the last Gallo-Roman bishop of Trier in the early days of Frankish rule. Born at Auvergne, he became a monk at Limoges and was nominated bishop of Trier by Theodoric I. This did not prevent him reproving Theodoric, Theodebert, and Clotaire I. The latter had him exiled, but died soon afterwards and his son Sigebert restored him to his see.

Nicetius called in Italian craftsmen to rebuild his cathedral, founded a school for the clergy, attacked incestuous marriages, and excommunicated notorious sinners. His surviving letters bear witness both to his zeal and his fearlessness. He told queen Clodesinde to convert her Arian husband through seeing the miracles accomplished by Martin of Tours, where even the devils witness the power of the saints. ‘Do they do so in Arian churches? They do not. One devil never exorcises another.’

A letter to the emperor Justinian deplores his (wife-induced) lapse into the Monophysite heresy, which Nicetius said was criticized through Italy, Africa, Spain, and Gaul. If he does not repudiate this error, he will be lost. More intransigent than tactful, Nicetius was an energetic example of a Christian bishop who was not afraid to reprove kings and emperors. Feast: 1 October.

Letters in M.G.H. Epistolae 3, 116–22; Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks, 2, p. 465; B.L.S., xii (Supplement), 285–6.

Subjects: Christianity.

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