Victor of Marseilles

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John Cassian (c. 360—435)


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Martyr (3rd century).

Historical information about Victor is sparse, but archaeological evidence underneath the present church of St Victor, consisting of two martyrs' tombs dating from the early 4th century, seems to confirm the existence of an ancient cult, later embellished with acta of uncertain value. The Latin name should be noted: this appears to exclude Victor being an Oriental. The Emperor Maximian (284–305) visited Marseilles, where a native senator/army officer encouraged the local Christians to stand firm in time of persecution. He was denounced, interrogated, and tortured before being executed. This person may well have been Victor. Gregory of Tours tells how in his own time a bishop took refuge in the church of St Victor during a plague in Marseilles, while Venantius Fortunatus regarded it as a principal pilgrimage centre in Gaul. Martyrology evidence is sparse: he may be one of the Victors mentioned in the Martyrology of Jerome, but the clearest information comes in that of Lyons (806), but incorporating older elements. Cassian may well have fostered the cult and even written a passio, but overall the most impressive evidence for the cult is the series of tombs under the present church, very close to the Mediterranean sea. Feast: 21 July.

Bibl. SS., xii. 1261–73; J. C. Moulinier, Saint Victor de Marseille, Les récits de sa passion (1993). B.L.S., vii. 161–2.

Subjects: Christianity.

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