In the 6th century, there lived a man named Aredius (later known as Yrieix). He was a member of a prominent family in the vicinity of Limoges, and his family’s status and influence allowed him to join the entourage of King Theodebert I (r. 533-548) of the Franks. Aredius, however, was soon recruited away from the king’s court by Bishop Nicetius of Trier, who encouraged the young man to become a monk. Aredius took up the offer and joined the bishop in Trier. While studying under Bishop Nicetius, Aredius made a great impression on his peers. As the stories go, even in his earliest years in the clergy, people could sense great saintly potential burgeoning in the monk. Of the many alleged holy signs of sainthood, there was one supposed series of events that occurred during Aredius’ days under Nicetius’ tutelage that caused tremendous wonder and awe in the eyes of young clergyman’s colleagues. It is a tale that involves a religiously-significant dove.
As the story goes, not long after becoming a monk in Trier, Aredius made a curious friend in a dove that was known to frequently perch on the various church properties in the city. This dove eventually found its way into the local cathedral in Trier and when Aredius entered the church with other fellow monks to chant psalms, the friendly bird glided down to say hello. Bishop Gregory of Tours (c. 539-594), who personally met Aredius, recorded this incident:
“One day when the clergy were chanting psalms in the cathedral, a dove flew down from the ceiling, fluttered gently round Aredius and then alighted on his head. This was in my opinion a clear sign that he was filled with the grace of the Holy Ghost. He was embarrassed by what had happened and tried to drive the dove away. It flew round for a while and then settled down again, first on his head and then on his shoulder. Not only did this happen in the cathedral, but when Aredius went off to the Bishop’s cell, the dove accompanied him. This was repeated day after day, to the great surprise of Nicetius” (Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks, X.29).
Unfortunately, further information about the Aredius’ dove is unknown. It was said to have followed him around for a long period of time while he was in Trier. The dove, however, seems to have remained in Trier, or otherwise flew away or died, around the time when Aredius left for home in the mid 6th century. He was drawn back to his ancestral land after the death of his father and brother, as he inherited his prominent family’s estates and wanted to keep his grieving mother, Pelagia, company. She, too, died in 572. Aredius eventually used his land and money to build churches and also founded a monastery in Limousin (the monastery of Saint Yrieix), over which he became abbot. After a long life, Aredius died in the year 591.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (19th century print, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the Rijksmuseum).
- The History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours, translated by Lewis Thorpe. New York: Penguin Classics, 1971.