In the year 423, Bishop Venerandus of Clermont-Ferrand died, leaving the bishopric vacant. As no heir was selected for the position, several factions emerged in Clermont-Ferrand, each supporting its own candidate for the title of bishop. Fittingly, the people of the diocese chose Sunday as the day to debate about who should become the new leader of the local church. Neither the religious reason for the town’s debate, nor the holy day on which the discussion was held, restrained the people of Clermont-Ferrand from heatedly arguing among themselves and ultimately driving deeper divisions between the different factions. Yet, according to Bishop Gregory of Tours (539-594), order was finally regained in the debate when a mysterious veiled woman spoke up and proclaimed that she had received a prophecy from God.
The anonymous veiled woman chastised the people of Clermont-Ferrand, claiming that not a single candidate put forward by the various factions had the backing of God. After she had the crowd’s attention, the veiled woman continued her speech, stating that she had received a divine vision in which the face of the next bishop was revealed to her in a prophetic dream. As if on cue, a little-known priest from somewhere in the outskirt of the diocese joined the congregation. His name was Rusticus, and as soon as the veiled woman set her eyes on the priest, she began to scream that he, the new arrival, was the one that God had chosen in her vision. Whether this was divine intervention, a fateful fluke, or a genius con job masterminded by Rusticus and the veiled woman, the result was that the people of Clermont-Ferrand were swayed to abandon all of their previous candidates and to support Rusticus as their bishop. Whatever the case, Rusticus served as the bishop of Clermont from 424 to 446 and was later considered to be a saint.
Written by C. Keith Hansley.
Picture Attribution: (14th century depiction of Saint Nonnus and Saint Pelagia, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).
- The History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours, translated by Lewis Thorpe. New York: Penguin Classics, 1971.