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E06480: The Martyrdom of *Patroclus (martyr of Troyes, S00346) is written in Latin in Gaul, probably before 700.

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posted on 2018-09-12, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Martyrdom of Saint Patroclus of Troyes (Passio sancti Patrocli Trecensis, BHL 6520, CPL 2130a)


(§ 1) In the reign of the emperor Aurelian a huge storm of persecution arose, so that virtually all who appeared to be Christian were tortured. Investigations of those who loved the Catholic faith led to their execution by various means and many passed into the kingdom of heaven wearing the crowns of martyrs.

(§ 2) Patroclus was an aristocrat from the city of Troyes. His parents had left him a substantial estate just outside the city. Well-educated and wise, he lived a life of constant prayer there, on his knees at all hours, fasting until the twelfth hour each day. He distributed his parental inheritance to widows and orphans, following the gospel command to give everything to the poor and thereby store up treasure in heaven. Living in prayer and in the fear of the Lord he would rout demons. Handsome and wearing religious garb, he was revered by all as a just man and a worthy servant of God due to his constant fasting and observance of vigils.

(§ 3) The impious persecutor of Christians, Aurelian was travelling from Sens to Troyes. Hearing about the deeds of Patroclus he made further enquiries about him. When he found the saint he accused him of following a false religion and worshipping a man. When Patroclus made no reply, Aurelian demanded his name, his religion and what god he worshipped. Patroclus replied: the living and true God. Aurelian urged him to reject this stupidity and worship the pagan gods, which would secure him fame and riches. Patroclus refused and Aurelian challenged him to prove the truth of his beliefs. Patroclus replied that truth hates falsehood, whereupon Aurelian threatened to burn him unless he offered cult to the pagan gods. Patroclus replied that he would offer himself as a living victim to the God who considered him worthy to be a martyr.

(§ 4) Incensed, Aurelian ordered him to be bound hand and foot, beaten and imprisoned. An official called Elegius guarded him in his cell where Patroclus spent three days in prayer.

(§ 5) After three days Patroclus was brought to Aurelian again and asked to sacrifice to the gods. Patroclus refused and offered Aurelian some of his own treasure, as he was a poor man. Aurelian did not understand how he, a very rich man, could be called poor but Patroclus explained that he had mere earthly wealth and was poor in faith; this would lead to his damnation. Aurelian’s patience was worn thin by Patroclus' words but the saint repeated his prediction of damnation and eternal punishment for the emperor.

(§ 6) Aurelian was amazed at Patroclus’ defiance, given that he had power of life or death over him. Patroclus replied that while Aurelian could kill his body he could not kill his soul (Matt. 10:28). Aurelian challenged Patroclus to accept that Apollo, Jupiter and Diana were sources of truth for mankind. Patroclus replied that Apollo was the herdsman of Admetus, and that Jupiter, a wicked, adulterous fornicator, who caused evil wherever he went, had died from starvation and that the earth had refused his body. Diana, whom Aurelian had called ‘Mother of the Gods’ was merely a demon.

(§ 7) Aurelian replied that unless Patroclus worshipped Apollo, Jupiter and Diana he would condemn him to death that very day. Patroclus insulted Aurelian again by comparing him to a bandit. Enraged, Aurelian ordered Patroclus to be taken to water and there beheaded, so that his body might not rest in peace on dry land.

(§ 8) Taken by the executioners to the banks of the Seine, Patroclus prayed that his body be kept from the water. He begged the Lord to listen to his prayer as once he had heard the prayers of Moses and Aaron and parted the waters for them. At his prayer, the eyes of those holding him were blinded and Patroclus entered the water and came out on the opposite bank. The water did not even touch his knees. The waters poured back and Patroclus went to a dry place, the Hill of Idols.

(§ 9) His guards were confused. Some praised the power of Patroclus’ god, while others said it was a ghost which had crossed the river. As they argued among themselves a pagan woman approached and told them that she had seen the man they sought, prostrate on the hill across the river, worshipping his god. They rushed there as fast as they could, intent on shedding innocent blood. Their leader said his guilt was established by the fact that although he had escaped he was now in their hands again. Either he would sacrifice to their gods or die. Patroclus refused to worship disgusting demons. His executioners asked him the nature of his god. Patroclus replied with a summary of the Creed. He told them their gods were demons and that on the Day of Judgement those who had sacrificed to demons would be plunged with them into eternal fire.

(§ 10) Enraged by this speech, Elegius commanded that Patroclus be bound, ready for execution. Patroclus knelt and commended his soul to the Lord even as he was struck down. They cast his head, covered in blood, away from his body and returned to Caesar, leaving the body abandoned. He was beheaded on the 21st of January (XII Kalend. Febru.), on the sixth day of the week, the day of preparation.

(§ 11) Two old beggars who witnessed the event, fearfully collected the body and watched over it until evening. Then Eusebius, the senior priest of that place, and the deacon Liberius came by night and buried the body discreetly because of the crowd of pagans around. They then kept vigil with the two old men.

(§ 12) Not long after, the persecution of Christians ceased.

Eusebius, qui eum in sepulchro recondiderat, ipse aedificavit super corpus eius parvam cellulam, secundum quod possibilitatem habebat.

‘Eusebius, who had buried him in a tomb, personally built a small oratory above his body, to the degree he was able.’

And when Eusebius himself was dying he demanded that he be laid to rest next to the spot where the blood of the holy martyr Patroclus had been shed.

Text: AASS, Ian. II, 343-345. Summary: Philip Beagon.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Patroclus, martyr of Troyes (Gaul) : S00346

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Troyes Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle at martyrdom and death Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Monarchs and their family Officials


Dated to the middle of the 6th c. by Van der Straeten 1960, 153. Evidently no later than the 6th c. if it is the account of Patroclus' martyrdom mentioned by Gregory of Tours, but this is not absolutely certain. Van der Straeten 1960, 149-150, shows that the work contains textual borrowings from the Martyrdom of Symphorianus (E06496).


The Martyrdom of Patroclus is one of a group of several Gallic martyrdoms which are portrayed as taking place under the emperor Aurelian (270-275); others include those of Columba of Sens (E06285), Priscus of Auxerre (E06510), Symphorianus (E06496), and Hereneus, Benignus, Andochius, Thyrsus and Felix (E06532). Aurelian was in Gaul in the years 274 and 275 (mainly engaged in defeating the breakaway Gallic Empire), but what, if any, factual basis there may be to the traditions about Gallic martyrdoms at this time, none of which is recorded until nearly two hundred years after his death, is unknown. The entry for Patroclus in Gregory of Tours' Glory of the Martyrs emphasises the importance of the written account of his martyrdom: presumptively the text discussed here, though this cannot be proven. Gregory claims that its discovery revived Patroclus' previously neglected cult (see E00588). The parva cellula which the Martyrdom records being built over Patroclus' grave by the priest Eusebius is presumably the same building as the parvolum oratorium mentioned by Gregory.


Edition: Acta Sanctorum, Ian. II, 343-345. Further reading: Van der Straeten, J., "La passion de saint Patrocle de Troyes - ses sources," Analecta Bollandiana 78 (1960), 145-153.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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