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(Died 178 AD)
Symphorian lived in the city of Autun, one of the most ancient cities of Gaul. He was born of a noble Christian family during the reign of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. Though just a young man, he was known for his modesty, prudence, charity and the innocence of his manners.
The people of Autun worshiped ancient gods such as Cybele, Apollo and Diana. On the feast of Cybele her statue was carried through the streets with great pomp in a chariot richly adorned. Symphorian, however, chose not to adore it. He was seized by the mob and carried before Heraclius, the governor of the province, who happened to be then at Autun, very busy in persecuting the Christians.
Seated on his tribunal, Heraclius asked Symphorian why he refused to adore the image of the mother of the gods. The young man answered that he was a Christian and adored the true God who reigned in heaven. The judge then asked his officers whether Symphorian was a citizen of the place. One of them answered: “He is of this place, and of a noble family.”
The judge said to Symphorian: “You flatter yourself on account of your birth and are perhaps unacquainted with the emperor’s orders.” He then ordered him to be bound, and said to him: “What say you to this Symphorian?” The martyr continuing to express his abhorrence of the idol, Heraclius commanded him to be cruelly beaten with clubs and sent him to prison.
Two days after, Symphorian was brought out of his dark dungeon and presented before the tribunal. Heraclius courted him saying: “It would be much better for you to serve the immortal gods, and to receive a gratuity from the public treasury, with an honorable military office. If you have a mind, I will cause the altars to be adorned with flowers that you may offer to the gods the incense which is due to them.”
Symphorian replied that he despised the offers that were made to him and abhorred the cruel and extravagant superstitions that were made use of in the worship of Cybele.
In the end, the judge condemned Symphorian to die by the sword. The martyr heard the sentence with joy and as he was carried out of the town to execution, his mother, standing on the walls of the city to see him pass by, cried out to him: “My son, my son Symphorian: remember the living God, and be of good courage. Raise your heart to heaven and consider him who reigns there.”
Some religious persons carried away his body privately and buried it in a cave, near a fountain in an out of the way place. His tomb became famous for miracles, and in the middle of the fifth century Euphronius, a priest, afterwards bishop of Autun, built a church over it in his honor.