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History has recorded the name of an allegedly badly-behaved bishop of Riez as Bishop "Contumeliosus of Riez" (he was later absolved of his accusations).

Now, Contumeliosus is definitely not the real name of this bishop. The name is most likely derived from the Latin word contumelia, which means:

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The word itself predates the bishop. It's an attested word in Classical Latin. As such, it seems to me this name was given to him posthumously, perhaps to match his most well-known life event with the meaning of the word (is this name changing a thing?).

Yet, I haven't found the original name of the bishop. According to the Wikipedia link above:

Of two surviving letters of John to Caesarius, both dated 18 July 535, one is about the dispute over Contumeliosus (Mansi, viii. p. 856).

I went to the VIII volume of the referred Mansi's work and you can indeed find the Latin letter (page 856). However, the name given to the bishop is Contumeliosus. Perhaps his real name was edited by Mansi himself, or an earlier copyst. Mansi's work is from the XVIII century. The book does not have references either, so it might be hard to trace the "original letters".

Anyone can help on this? Is this an unanswerable question perhaps?

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    Dupin's 1695 Nouvelle bibliotheque is earlier, so Mansi is aquitted. – kimchi lover Apr 27 '20 at 23:30
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    It's not totally clear to me that Contumeliosis cannot be his name. In 1 Timothy 1:13, Paul describes himself (his previous self) with this word: "qui prius blasphemus fui, et persecutor, et contumeliosus: sed misericordiam Dei consecutus sum, quia ignorans feci in incredulitate." – kimchi lover Apr 27 '20 at 23:57
  • Why can it not be his "real" name? It may not have been the name his parents gave him, but if he changed his name later on. that name is his real name from that time onwards. – jamesqf Apr 28 '20 at 4:17
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If by "real name" you mean the name he had at birth, & we can be 100% sure "Contumeliosus" was not his birth name, that information is likely lost in time. We're talking about the 6th century, when most writings on perishable surfaces are long lost.

If you mean the name his contemporaries knew him by, I checked my copy of the letters of Avitus of Vienne (the translation of Shanzer & Wood), a contemporary of Contumeliosus, who wrote him a letter that has survived, & Avitus addresses him as "Contumeliosus". Its line of descent is independent of the surviving letters of Pope John II, so it's highly unlikely one individual replaced his "real" name with a pseudonym.

Either the man intentionally picked a self-effacing name when he became a bishop, or his parents had a nasty sense of humor. Lacking further information, your guess is as good as mine.

  • This is about the same time that popes started taking regnal names. I wonder if bishops did that as well. – Spencer Apr 28 '20 at 16:56

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