Brice of Tours (d. 444)

St. Brice of Tours (370-444) was an orphan rescued by St. Martin of Tours and raised in the monastery of Marmoutiers. He became a pupil of St. Martin, although as a youth he was an intemperate and passionate man, given to fits of anger. Nevertheless, he succeeded Martin as Bishop of Tours in 397 and was subsequently turned out of his See by the people of Tours who accused him of fornicating with a nun. He did penance in Rome for seven years and was eventually returned to his See, after which he lived with such holiness and piety that the people began to venerate him as a saint.

There is a popular version of his story that dates from the early Middle Ages. It depicts St. Brice as undergoing a trial by ordeal to prove his innocence in the charge of fornication:

Of Saint Brice.

Brice was Archdeacon of Saint Martin, and was much grievous to him, and said of him many things unreasonable. And on a time a poor man came to Brice and demanded of him where the bishop was, and how he should know him. And he bade him go into the church, and him that thou shalt see there looking upward to heaven as a mad man or one from himself, that same is Martin. And the poor man went and found Saint Martin, and when he had received that he asked, Saint Martin called Saint Brice, and said to him: "Brice, seemeth it to thee that I am a fool or frantic?" And he forsook it and denied it for shame, and said he had not said so. And Saint Martin said: "I have heard it, for mine ears were at thy mouth when thou saidst it to the poor man openly. I tell and say to thee forsooth that I have obtained and have grant of God that thou shalt succeed me in this bishopric, but know thou for certain that thou shalt suffer therein many adversities." And when Brice heard him say so, he scorned him, saying: "Said I not true when I said he was a fool?"

And after the death of Saint Martin, Brice was elected and made bishop of Tours, which from thence forthon he entended all to prayer, and howbeit that he had been proud, yet he was always chaste. And in the thirtieth year of his bishopric, a woman which was religiously clad, which was his lavender and had washen his clothes, had conceived and borne a child which all the people said that the bishop had gotten, and they assembled at his gates with stones, and said: "We have long suffered thy lechery for the love of Saint Martin and for his pity, but now we will no more kiss thy hands which be accursed." But he denied the fait and deed manly, and said: "Bring to me the child." And when he was brought he was but thirty days old. And Saint Brice said to him: "I conjure thee by the Son of God that thou say to me tofore all this people if I have engendered thee." And the child said: "Thou art not my father." And the people, yet not content, bade him to demand the child who was his father. And he said: "That appertaineth not to me to do. I have done that which appertaineth to me for mine excuse." And the people said that this was done by the art of enchantment, and said plainly: "He should not seigniory over us thus falsely under the shadow of a pastor." And then yet for to purge him he bare, in his lap or his vestment, coals all burning unto the tomb of Saint Martin, and his vestments never burned, he had none harm, and then he said: "Like as my vestment is unhurt and not burnt of these coals, but is whole and not corrupt of the fire, in like wise is my body clean of touching any woman." And yet the people believed him not, but beat him and did to him many injuries, and put him out of the bishopric, because the word of Saint Martin should be accomplished.

And then St. Brice went his way weeping, and came to the pope, and abode there seven years, and purged him of that he had trespassed to Saint Martin. And the people made a new bishop named Justinian and sent him to Rome for to defend the cause against Brice. And as he went thitherward he died is the city of Vercellence. Then the people made one Armenius bishop in his stead, and in the seventh year Brice returned with authority of the pope, and took his lodging six miles without the city. And that same night Armenius the bishop died. And Brice knew it by divine revelation, and said to his people that they should arise an haste them for to go and bury the bishop of Tour which was dead. And as Brice entered at on gate, the dead bishop was brought in at another gate; and when he was buried Saint Brice took his see or siege, and was bishop after that seven year and led a holy and laudable life. And in the seven and fortieth year of his bishopric he passe unto our Lord, to whom be given laud and glory. Amen.