Saint-Thibéry (Saint Tiberius), Blessed Martyr
Born in 293, Martyred in 304

Paul Smith

10 May 2017

It has been claimed that Saint-Thibéry, Blessed Martyr of the Roman Catholic Church, is an “enigmatic character”.

Nothing can be further from the truth, and the suggestion is laughable. The village of Cessero was later renamed Saint Thibéry. The villagers call themselves The Saint-Thiberians.

Let over 1,700 years of facts speak for themselves.

(Hérault, Languedoc-Roussillon)
Original French Article

Ancient itineraries mention the town of Cessero as a staging-post on the important Via Domitia, but the present town owes its name to Tiberius, the son of Helaeus the Roman governor of Agde. Born in 293 AD, he converted to the new religion of Christianity at the age of 10 under the influence of his tutor Modestus. After suffering persecution he was put to death in the reign of Diocletian in a small wood on the banks of the River Hérault before being buried there.

In the VIII century a Benedictine monastery was founded. The pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostella would go there to see the martyr's relics. The Romanesque abbey-church was subsequently rebuilt in the Gothic style in the XV century. The entire group of abbey-buildings was torn down in the French Revolution. They have nonetheless partially survived until our own times in that parts of the masonry have been cannibalised for use in the local houses, which explains the very distinctive character of the town-centre.

Miraculous powers were posthumously attributed to Tiberius. His relics were venerated and were alleged to cure people suffering from mental illnesses. They would lodge in the tower and remain for an entire novena in a downstairs room, the door of which was closed with a barroul (i.e. locked and bolted). They would emerge only to attend the ceremonies in the Gleisette, a primitive underground church dating from the IX century located below the present-day square. On the way back some would return to the tower without problems, but the more reluctant would have to be dragged inside. To postpone the time when they would be locked up again they would grab the bolt on the door and even grasp it with their teeth. Ever since, when someone has been behaving strangely, the people in Saint-Thibéry and the surrounding area say, “Lou cal menar a San Tibéri baïsar lou barroul” (“They'll have to be taken to Saint-Thibéry to grab the bolt”).

For many years Saint-Thibéry was an unavoidable part of the route for both travellers and pilgrims.

Besides the relics of Tiberius, the author of Book V of the Codex Calixtinus (the famous “guide” for the pilgrims making their way to Santiago de Compostella) recommends those of Modestus and Florentia for devotion by pilgrims. This reference to Saint-Thibéry is one of the very few clues which enable us in modern times to trace the various routes to Saint James of Compostella. It confirms the essentially symbolic aspect of the 4 major routes proposed by the “guide”, since it is located on a fifth major route through flat country. It also confirms that, in ancient times, this route was permanently busy due to the presence of the Pont Romain (Roman bridge) which crosses the Hérault. The bridge has been the victim down the centuries of repeated overflowing of the river's banks, so that only 4 arches now remain. The bridge is about 200 feet from one of the best preserved flour-mills (thirteenth century) in the region.

With 2300 inhabitants the town's economy is currently dependent on viticulture and the local basalt-quarry. A gradual renovation of the area around the remains of the abbey is underway.


From Jeanne Vielliard. Guide du Pèlerin de Saint Jacques de Compostelle, Texte latin du XIIè siècle (1969)

From the Guide, dating from the twelfth century, translated by Jeanne Vielliard:

“You must go and see the bodies of the blessed martyrs Saints Tiberius, Modestus and Florentia, who in the time of Diocletian suffered various tortures for their faith and were martyred. They now rest on the banks of the Hérault in a very beautiful sepulchre. Their feast-day is 10th November.” (Chapter VIII)

From the translator’s footnote:

“These three saints of Agde were martyred on November 10, 304. Their bodies lay not at Agde itself, but upstream on the Hérault, in the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Thibéry, founded around 770, destroyed during the Revolution.”

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