Forty miles along the Limoges road from Bourges at the crossing of the River Indre, pilgrims reached the major Cluniac centre of Déols where the massive church of Saints Peter and Paul and Notre Dame, one of the largest in western Christendom stood above the crypt which housed the magnificent sarcophagus of Saint Lusorius, carved in the finest Italian marble by the craftsmen of Arles.
Founded in 917 by Count Ebbe of Bourges, the abbey was an early Cluniac establishment and one of its most prestigious. The monastic centre was significant enough to earn the name Bourg-Dieu from which the modern name Déols is derived. The abbey church, 113 metres in length, was consecrated by Pope Pascal II in 1107.
The main point of interest for pilgrims were the relics of Lusorius and his father Leocadius.
Leocadius, according to Gregory of Tours, was a resident of the city of Bourges. Gregory recounts how, when approached by an early Christian community at Bourges to assist them in obtaining a building for their church, Leocadius offered his own richly endowed home.
“Leocadius, the leading Senator of Gaul had believed in the pagan gods,” wrote Gregory in his History of the Franks, ”but now became a Christian and turned his house into a church.”
There the Christians established their church, later to become the cathedral where they kept relics of Saint Stephen the first Christian martyr.
Later, Leocadius having retired to the region near Déols and wishing to prepare for his own demise, ordered a magnificent sarcophagus of Italian marble to be prepared for himself. However, tragically his son Lusorius, was to die before him. A disciple of Saint Ursinus of Bourges, Lusorius died a mere eight days after receiving his baptism. In his grief Leocadius had his son entombed in the sarcophagus which had been prepared for his own death. Within a short period miracles began to be recorded by the tomb and Lusorius’ relics gained a reputation for their thaumaturgical properties.
Leocadius was subsequently laid to rest in a simple stone coffin placed along side his son’s.
Twelfth century pilgrims would have venerated the relics in a crypt constructed in the late sixth century. There the superb marble sarcophagus was kept, richly adorned in scenes of hunting. The scenes of two hunters chasing after a quaternity of animals: lion, deer, bear and boar combined classical philosophical notions with Christian imagery into a symbolic ensemble which was the inspiration for the twelfth century Romanesque tympanum of the abbey church of Saint Ursinus at Bourges.