Pilgrims journeying to Compostela on the Toulouse Road were able to venerate the mortal remains of a major saint who had been, according to tradition, a disciple and travelling companion of Saint Paul. It was written that Trophimus had been directed by the Apostle Peter to evangelise Gaul. He was the first bishop of Arles and his relics were held in the cathedral.
As a direct link to the original Apostolic Mission, Trophimus was held in the highest esteem. This perception is graphically rendered in the sculpture of the west facade of the cathedral where Trophimus is admitted into the college of the Apostles standing alongside James of Compostela.
The Pilgrim’s Guide declares that travellers: “Must visit in Arles the remains of the Blessed Trophimus the confessor.”
Trophimus was ordained by Saint Paul himself. “He was the first one to be directed to the said city to preach the Gospel of Christ”, continued the text of the Guide.
Arles had long been an important Roman administrative centre and in 412 its bishopric became the Metropolitan See for the whole of Gaul.
Trophimus is mentioned by name in the Acts of The Apostles.After Paul was driven from Ephesus he travelled with a select band of eight disciples whom he joined at Troas.
From there they journeyed on to Miletus where, Paul wrote in his Second Epistle to Timothy that he was obliged to leave behind Trophimus who had fallen sick.
The twelfth century tradition held that Trophimus had rejoined Paul in Spain when Saint Peter intervened and directed him to evangelise Gaul.
Trophimus’ bishopric had in reality occurred at some point in the third century. A general tendency to idealise the evangelisation of Gaul and antedate it to the time of the first Apostles meant that during the medieval period, his conflation with Paul’s disciple was accepted. Such a direct and intimate link to the original Apostolic mission meant that Trophimus’ mortal remains were highly revered. Initially his relics were kept in a tomb at the cemetery of Honoratus, part of the Alyscans.
During the tenth century they were transferred to the cathedral of Arles, then under the patronym of Saint Stephen but shortly to be renamed the cathedral of Saint Trophimus.
Trophimus was a confessor saint who had, according to Gregory of Tours, passed his life “In great holiness, winning many people over to the church”.
In the twelfth century a large new cathedral church was constructed and the relics of Trophimus were ceremoniously translated there in 1152.