Avitus of Vienne, St.

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Fifth-century bishop; b. probably Vienne, France, c. 450; d. Vienne, c. 519. Alcimus Ecdicius Avitus succeeded his father, St. Hesychius (Isicius) in the See of Vienne (c. 490) and became a leader of the Gallo-Roman episcopate. Prominent at several synods, especially Epaon (517), he persuaded the Burgundian King Gundobad, though an Arian, to extend protection to the Catholic faith. Gundobad's son and successor, Sigismund, was converted by Avitus and made him his adviser in ecclesiastical matters. Avitus contended against heresy in his diocese, especially arianism, and was an ardent defender of the primacy of Rome. Magnus Felix Ennodius of Pavia, Gregory of Tours, Isidore of Seville, and Fortunatus praised his charity, learning, and literary achievement. Some 80 historically valuable letters have been preserved together with three complete sermons and fragments of possibly 30 others, the De spiritualis historiae gestis (a series of five poems inspired by Genesis), and a poem in praise of virginity.

Feast: Feb. 5.

Bibliography: Opera, ed. r. peiper (Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Auctores antiquissimi 6.2; 1883); Oeuvres complètes, ed. u. chevalier (Lyon 1890). m. burckhardt, Die briefsammlung des bischofs Avitus von Vienne (Berlin 1938). Acta Sanctorum Feb. 1:666675. o. bardenhewer, Geschichte der altkirchlichen Literatur (Freiburg 191332) 5:337345. s. costanza, Avitiana (Messina 1968). h. j. e. goelzer, Le latin de saint Avit, évêque de Vienne (Paris 1909). g. bardy, Catholicisme 1:113435. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq, and h. i. marrou (Paris 190753) 15.2:306163. j. h. fischer, Lexicon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 1:115455.

[g. m. cook]