Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Livinus
LIVINUS, Saint (d. 656?), is known as the Apostle of Brabant. The proof of his existence turns upon the genuineness of a metrical epistle and epitaph which he is believed to have written, and which, if genuine, affords some little authentic material for his biography. The epistle is addressed to his friend Florbert, who was abbot of the foundation at Ghent, afterwards called St. Bavo's, and died in 661, and the epitaph is on St. Bavo, who died in 654. The epistle seems to show that Livinus was of episcopal rank. Bale claimed Livinus as the author of an epitaph on St. Bavo (Script. Illustr. 1557, Basle, ii. 190). It and the epistle were first printed by Ussher (Sylloge, p. 19), who does not say whence he obtained them. Ghesquière was acquainted with another manuscript version. Moll regards both as genuine, and mentions a manuscript of the epitaph (No. 16886) in the Burgundian Library at Brussels. This belongs to the sixteenth century, and is preceded by a French note stating that it was copied from an inscription on stone (Kerkgeschiedenis van Nederland, 1864, p. 77, n. 2). Rettberg (Kirchengesch. Deutschlands, 1846, ii. 510) was the first to question the genuineness of the epistle, on the ground that the author plainly foretells his own martyrdom; while he describes Hauthem in dark colours, possibly in foreknowledge of the place of his martyrdom; prophesies the destruction of Ghent, probably alluding to its fall in the ninth century; and uses a poetical license in saying that the poems were written while Florbert's messengers waited. A stronger argument may be based on the style of the versification, which for the seventh century is remarkably polished (Hist. Litt. de la France, iii. 585; Dict. Christ. Biog. s. v.) Further, it is surprising that, if Livinus existed, he should be unknown to martyrologists till the eleventh century.
Mention is made of him in the Brussels version of Usuard (Migne, cxxiv. 687), but that version must have been written after the translation of what was alleged to be St. Livinus's remains to Ghent in 1007. In the eleventh century legend respecting him was abundant. The account supplied by the Brussels version of Usuard agrees with that in the eleventh-century life of St. Florbert (Vande Putte, Annales S. Petri, Blandin, pp. 26, 45). According to these late authorities Livinus was of Scottish or Irish race, an archbishop of Ireland, who came to Ghent in 633 with three disciples, was kindly received by Florbert, and after preaching in Brabant was martyred at the village of Escha, 12 Nov., and was buried at Hauthem. A legendary life of Livinus by a writer named Boniface dates at the earliest from the eleventh century (Rettberg); it is full of anachronisms, and historically worthless (Haddan and Stubbs, Councils, iii. 4). In 1007 Erembold, abbot of St. Bavo's, is said to have translated Livinus's relics from Hauthem to Ghent; of this an account is given by an anonymous monk at the end of the eleventh century, who alone speaks of an elevation of the relics at Hauthem in 842, by Theodoric, bishop of Cambrai (Mabillon, Acta, sæc. vi., i. 65). Erembold's action probably led Boniface to write Livinus's life, and was also the cause of the entries in the life of Florbert and in the martyrologies and the Ghent office (Molanus, Natales SS. Belg.) His day, according to these authorities, was 12 Nov.
[Ussher's Vet. Epist. Hibern. Sylloge; Acta SS. Belg. Sel. Ghesquière, iii. 133; Dictionary of Christian Biography.]