Salvius of Albi

(d. 584)

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Gregory of Tours (538—594)


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Bishop (d. 584).

The main authority for details about his life is his friend Gregory of Tours. Salvius was born in Albi, became a lawyer and a magistrate; but he never married. Instead he became a monk in a suburb of Albi. He was strongly drawn to the hermit life but in spite of this, he was chosen as abbot and was always generous to those who sought his help.

Gregory relates how Salvius appeared to die and be restored to life: an out-of-the-body experience of a kind later related by Bede and by Irish writers and culminating in the Monk of Eynsham's vision and especially in Dante. Salvius thus experienced a vision of heaven. He told Gregory about it directly, who narrated what he had been told but realized that some people would not believe him.

Salvius was appointed bishop and held the office for ten years. He took part in theological debates with Gregory and King Chilperic of Soissons, whose Arianism they refuted. Another contact with Gregory came when Salvius disproved the accusation that Gregory had libelled the queen Fredegond. Salvius also managed to persuade the patrician Mummolus to liberate the citizens of Albi whom he had carried off as prisoners.

As bishop, Salvius refused to accept money; if donors forced it on him, he distributed it to the poor. This generosity was mirrored in his death. A plague raged in Albi: Salvius refused to leave the city and personally looked after the sick. Eventually he too caught the plague, prepared his own coffin, and put on his shroud. He practised what he preached to ‘act always in such a way that if God recalls you from this world, you may enter not into his judgment but into his peace.’ He died on 10 September and was buried in a monastery named after him. About twenty-five church-dedications and several place-names are evidence for a comparatively widespread cult. Feast: 10 September.

Gregory of Tours, Historia Francorum, 7, 1 (cf. 5, 44–50);Bibl. SS., xi. 605–7: AA.SS., s.d.

Subjects: Christianity.

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