Attila the Hun and his hordes rampaged across Europe in the 5th century. In 451, the Huns were just a few miles outside Troyes, where they waged a furious battle with the Roman troops. The barbarian leader threatened to capture Troyes, which stood in the way of his retreat. The bishop Loup, Bishop of Troyes, dispatched a delegation to negotiate with Attila. Every member of the delegation was beheaded, except for one.
The bishop decided to confront the invader in person to prevent his forces from ransacking the city. A conversation ensued between the two men. “I am the scourge of God!” boomed Attila. “And I am Loup [French for “Wolf ”]. We share a similar name. Let us not destroy the herd!» retorted the bishop, with quick thinking and composure. The King of the Huns agreed to spare the city and implored the bishop Loup to guide him to the Rhine. However, his actions incensed the city’s inhabitants, who accused him of conniving with the enemy. What a display of ingratitude! The bishop spent several years in exile, but was eventually restored to his former position as Bishop of Troyes (a post that he held for a total of 52 years).
His decision to stand up to Attila and his hordes was just one of many incredible feats in the life of the bishop Loup. Legend has it that he was also noted for his achievement of slaying the “Chair Salée”, the nickname given to a ferocious winged dragon that terrorised the lands surrounding the city. The intrepid bishop killed the dragon with his sword (he trained as an armed warrior before entering the priesthood). There are several interpretations of this story: some suggest that the dragon symbolised Attila, while others believe that it represented heresy, paganism and sin.
Whatever the truth behind the legend, the “Chair Salée” was represented by a crude monster, which would be paraded through the streets of the city for three days prior to the Feast of the Ascension. The symbol, the associated religious ceremony and the popular festivities that arose from the story were banned in 1728 by the then Bishop of Troyes, a distant successor of Saint Loup.
If the famous bishop were still alive today, we would almost certainly see him protecting the city from the real-life, flesh-and-blood wolves that have recently begun ravaging the Aube countryside, decimating livestock and bringing terror to the local population. Just as he did to Attila, he would probably have confronted the wolves with these words: “I am Loup. We share a similar name. Let us not destroy the herd!”