For the commune in France, see Josse, Landes.
Saint Judoc

A 16th-century portrayal of Saint Judoc by the Master of Meßkirch.
Born Brittany
Died 668 AD
Ponthieu, France
Venerated in Eastern Orthodox Church
Roman Catholic Church

13 December

9 January(translation)
Attributes pilgrim's staff; a crown at his feet

Saint Judoc, Saint Joyce, or Saint Josse (Latin: Iudocus; traditionally c. 600 – 668 AD)[1] was a seventh-century Breton noble. Though he was never officially canonized, Saint Judoc is considered to be a saint.[2] Judoc is believed to be the son of Saint Judicature, King of Brittany. He renounced the crown to become a priest and live alone for the rest of his life[3] in the coastal forest near the mouth of the River Cache.


The name Judoc, meaning "Lord", is the 14th century Breton version of Iudocus in Latin, Josse in French, Jost, Joost, or Joos in Dutch and Joyce in English. The name Judoc was rarely used after the 14th century except in the Netherlands.


Saint Judoc's ancestors include Saint Patrick, Saint Cylinnus, Blessed Bran, and Anna of Arimathea. Anna of Arimathea was commonly referred to as the Daughter of Joseph the Israelite because her father was Saint Joseph of Arimathea from the line of Nathan, son of David King of Israel and Judah. King David’s ancestors include the Israelites, Zebulon, Levi, Joseph, and Judah. Her mother's line also goes through Simon, many high priests, and Judah the Israelite.


According to tradition, Judoc was the son of Saint Judicael, King of Brittany, and the brother of Alain II Hir and Saint Winnoc. In approximately 636, Judoc renounced his inheritance and wealth and embarked on a pilgrimage to Rome. He was ordained as a priest during this voyage and subsequently became a hermit in Ponthieu, Saint-Josse-sur-Mer, where he resided until his death. According to ancient folklore, his body was said to be incorruptible,[4] leaving his followers with the task of continually cutting his hair after death.[5]


St. Judoc, as depicted in the Church of St. Christina in Ravensburg.

Saint Judoc developed a local cultus. Built in the eighth century at the place where Judoc's shrine was kept, the Abbey of Saint-Josse was a small monastery situated on the site of his retreat. In 903, some monks of the abbey fled the Norman raiders for England, where they bore Judoc's relics. Under the tradition of the New Minster of Hyde in Winchester (founded 901), the relics were translated by Saint Grimbald. In honor the event, feasts were held on the 9th of January,[6] and were reportedly organized according to cathedral rank.[5]

The veneration of Saint-Josse spread from France through the Low Countries, England, Germany, and Scandinavia. In these regions, variations of Josse, Joyce, Joos, Joost, and the diminutive Jocelyn,[7] became popular names for both men and women, and a number of chapels and churches were dedicated to him.[8]

The mal Saint-Josse was the term for an illness resulting from a snakebite, against which the saint's name was invoked by the fifteenth-century French poet Eustache Deschamps in an imprecatory ballade:[9] "...Du mau saint Leu, de l'esvertin, Du saint Josse et saint Matelin... soit maistre Mahieu confondus!".[10] According to Alban Butler, Charlemagne gave the abbey to Alcuin who turned it into a hostel for those crossing the English Channel. It later became a site of pilgrimage, especially popular with Flemish and Germans in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

La vie de Saint Josse was written in Old French verses by the learned and competent poet and translator, Pierre de Beauvais, in the thirteenth century.[11]

The Suaire de St-Josse, or "Shroud of Saint Judoc," is a rich, silk samite saddle cloth woven in northeastern Iran prior to 961. When Saint Judoc was reinterred in 1134, the shroud was used to wrap his bones.[12] Musée de Louvre currently houses his shroud.

The abbey was closed in 1772, and subsequently sold and dismantled in 1789, leaving no traces of the monumental buildings. The abbey church then became the parish church of the French commune of Saint-Josse.

Cultural depictions

Cultural depictions usually portray St. Judoc holding the pilgrim's staff. He is also shown with a crown at his feet, referring to his renunciation of his lands and fortune. In Austria, there is a depiction of St. Judoc on the mausoleum of Maximilian at Innsbruck. St. Judoc was most famously mentioned by Chaucer's Wife of Bath, who swears "by God and by Seint Joce [Saint Joyce]." This suggests that his name was often invoked in oaths.[5]

See also


  1. Alban Butler, (Michael Walsh, ed.) Butler's Lives of the Saints (1991) s.v. "December 13: St Judoc, or Josse (AD 688)".
  2. The Breton genealogist Fr. Augustin du Paz, (du Paz, Histoire généalogique de plusieurs maisons illustres de Bretagne, Paris, 1619) states that Conan I de Rennes, count of Brittany had a son Juthael; Alban Butler, following the twelfth-century Ecclesiastical History (iii) of Orderic Vitalis ("Beatus Iudocus Iuthail regis Britonum filius et frater Iudicail regis"), states "Judoc was a son of Juthaël, King of Armorica (Brittany), and brother of that Judicaël who had a cult in the Diocese of Quimper", whom Orderic would make king of the "Britons" after his father.
  3. Butler 1991 gives "Runiacum"
  4. David Hugh Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1997, p.278.
  5. 1 2 3 Farmer, David Hugh (1997). The Oxford dictionary of saints (4th ed.). Oxford [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press. p. 278. ISBN 9780192800589.
  6. Butler 1991.
  7. Chaucer's Wife of Bath swears "by God and by Saint Joce"
  8. S.V. Spilsbury, "The imprecatory ballad: a fifteenth-century poetic genre", French Studies 33.4 (1979:385-396).
  9. Among a host of ills wished upon Master Matthew, Eustache wishes "the ill of Saint Leu, a spell of madness, those of Saint Josse and Saint Matelin..." (Eustache Deschamps, Oeuvres complètes DCCCVI ((Paris 1884) vol. 4, p. 321).
  10. Pierre de Beauvais, Nils-Olof Jönsson, tr. La vie de Saint Germer et la vie de Saint Josse de Pierre de Beauvais: Deux poèmes du XIIIe siècle (University of Lund) 1997. Jönsson's introductory notes offer good introductions both to Saint Judoc and Pierre de Beauvais.
  11. M. Bernus, H. Marchal, and G. Vial, "Le Suaire de St-Josse", Bulletin de Liaison du Centre International d'Études des Textiles Anciens 33 (1971:1-57).
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