Skip to content

From General Placidus to Saint Eustace to another big old Gothic church

St. Eustache Church serves the parish where I live in Paris. The church has an impressive organ, and there are free concerts every Sunday. But who was St. Eustace?

Eustace (in French it’s pronounced “oo-stash”) was originally a Roman general and captain of the guards named Placidus. He served the emperor Trajan. While hunting a white stag near Rome, Placidus saw a vision of Jesus on the cross between the stag’s antlers, and the stag was calling his name. 


Placidus converted to Christianity, got baptized, had his family baptized, and changed his name to Eustace. Then all the trouble began.

His wealth was stolen, his servants died of a plague, and pirates kidnapped Eustace’s wife. Then, as Eustace crossed a river with his two sons, the boys were attacked and taken away by a wolf and a lion. I saw a statue called “The Torrent” at the Cluny Museum today with Eustace standing in a torrent of water and his sons being bitten by the wolf and the lion.

Eustace did not lose his faith, however. His money, prestige, and his family were restored to him. Even though a Christian, Eustace thought he could continue to serve Hadrian by leading his legions to great victories. However, Eustace, his wife Theopista, and his sons Agapetus and Theopestus refused to make pagan sacrifices in the celebrations following those victories. In 118 AD, Emperor Hadrian condemned Eustace and his family to be roasted to death together inside a bronze statue of a bull (shown in the painting below).

Situated at the entrance to Paris’s Les Halles markets and the beginning of Rue Montorgueil, la Eglise de Saint-Eustache (Church of St. Eustace) is a gothic gem. Lizst played the organ there, Mozart chose the sanctuary for his mother’s funeral, and Moliere was married there. Church construction began in 1532 and was completed in 1637 (see photo below). During the Revolution, the church was looted and desecrated (like most churches in Paris) and used as a barn.

View from south east

No account of Saint Eustace and his family has been verified prior to the seventh century. Yet he became one of the most popular saints in the middle ages. His former feast day was September 20, but he has been removed from the English calendar of saints. Eustace is still considered, however, the patron saint of hunters, firefighters, torture victims, and the city of Madrid, Spain.

One Comment