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Leo Dupont

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Leo Dupont

For the Belgian athlete, please see Léon Dupont (athlete)
Venerable Leo Dupont
Leo Dupont, Holy Man of Tours
Apostle of the Holy Face
Born 24 January 1797
Died 18 March 1876
Tours, France
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church
Feast 1 December

Venerable Leo Dupont (24 January 1797 – 18 March 1876), also known as "The Holy Man of Tours," or the "Apostle of the Holy Face", was a Catholic who helped spread various Catholic devotions such as that of the Holy Face of Jesus and nightly Eucharistic Adoration. He was declared Venerable by the Holy See during Pope Pius XII's Pontificate and currently awaits Beatification.[1]

Early life

He was born Leon Papin Dupont was born 24 January 1797 on the family sugar plantation in Martinique. His father was Nicholas Dupont, a wealthy French planter, his mother was a creole from Martinique, Marie-Louise Gaigneron de Marolles. His father died when Leo was six years old. Leon was schooled in Martinique and then in the United States while the French Revolution went on. He was then sent to France to further his education at the College of Pontlevoy, near the Chateau of Chissay, which belonged to his maternal uncle, the Comte Gaigneron de Marolles. He was by nature and upbringing religious from an early age. But along with his one brother Theobald he studied law in Paris.[2]

He developed his religious viewpoint and was starting to perform numbers of good deeds. He confessed that he had begun merely on a feeling of culpability for having once missed Mass on Ascension day due to taking part on an excursion, but his spirituality quickly matured. In this period, Dupont associated with various religious figures including Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart. Upon finishing his law degree, not having seen his mother for six years, he returned to Martinique.[3] His brother Theobald died when Leo was about twenty-four years old in 1823.

In 1827, Leo Dupont married Caroline d'Andiffredi and in 1832 had a daughter Henrietta. However, Caroline died about a year after Henrietta was born. After the death of his wife, Dupont and his mother returned to France and in 1834 settled in Tours, where Dupont established a law practice.

Religious focus

In 1837, while gazing at a picture of Saint Teresa of Avila, Leo decided to become more active in spreading the Catholic faith. He wrote a book on Marian shrines, joined the recently formed Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and contributed large sums of money to it. Shortly after his pilgrimage to La Salette in 1847, his daughter Henrietta died and thereafter the main focus of his life became religious activities.

In 1847 Dupont invited Saint Jeanne Jugan to established a house for the Little Sisters of the Poor in Tours.[4] Thereafter he remained a frequent contributor to the Little Sisters' charity for the poor and the elderly.

When Dupont came to Tours, the cult of Saint Martin had almost completely fallen into disuse. Two roads covered the location of St. Martin’s tomb, purposely constructed to obliterate the memory of St. Martin. Martin of Tours was, for Leo Dupont, the model of charity, and he desired to restore devotion to the Bishop of Tours, and begin the process for the eventual rebuilding of his basilica that had been destroyed by the Revolutionaries. Around 1848, following the suggestions of Mr. Dupont, the Cathedral of Tours began to restore the festivities surrounding the Feast of St. Martin on November 11.[5] He helped rebuild the Basilica of St. Martin, Tours (which dated back to 472).

In 1849, he managed to establish nightly Eucharistic Adoration in Tours, from where it spread within France. To combat writers who were against the Holy Eucharist, Dupont wrote a book, Faith Revived and Piety Reanimated Through the Eucharist.[6]

His reputation as a Catholic activist and a helper of the poor spread within France and he was in contact with other French Catholic figures such as Saint Jean Vianney and Saint Peter Julian Eymard, who was also an active proponent of spreading devotion to the Holy Eucharist. Dupont’s charitable works and religious stance became so well known in France that he received many letters, often addressed to "The Holy Man of Tours" and the postmen knew how to deliver them. Pope Pius IX personally praised Dupont.

Dupont's mother lived with him most of his life in Tours and she died in 1860. After her death, from 1860 to 1870, he spent most of his time praying before the image of Veil of Veronica, often wearing a hair shirt under his clothes, until his health failed.

Holy Face Devotions

A series of articles on
Catholic devotions to the
Holy Face of Jesus

Marie of St PeterLeo DupontThérèse of LisieuxMaria PierinaMaria Pia MastenaGaetano Catanoso

Prayers & Sacramentals
Golden ArrowLittle SachetScapular of the Holy Face

Sisters of ReparationSisters of the Holy FaceOratory of the Holy Face

Apart from his other charitable activities, Dupont is perhaps best known for his impact on spreading the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. He is sometimes referred to as the Apostle of the Holy Face.

Dupont made frequent donations to the Carmelites in Tours and managed their business affairs. He thus heard of the reported visions of Jesus and Mary by the Carmelite nun Sister Marie of St Peter from 1844 to 1847. Based on this, Dupont started to burn a vigil lamp continuously before a picture of the Holy Face of Jesus based on the painted image on the Veil of Veronica.[7] Dupont used that image because the existence of a clear image on the Shroud of Turin was not known to anyone at that time for the somewhat faded image of the face on the Shroud can not easily be seen with the naked eye and was only observed in May 1898 via the negative plate of Secondo Pia's first photograph.

During this time, Dupont also heavily promoted Vade Retro Satana and the "The Holy Face Protection Cross" which on the front bears the words "Sit Nomen Domini Benedictum" (Blessed Be the Name of God) and on the reverse Vade Retro Satana (Begone, Satan). The Crossbeam shows the Sacred Heart on the right and the Immaculate Heart on the left and in the center is the reproduction of Veronica’s Veil.[8]

In 1851 Dupont formed the "Archconfraternity of the Holy Face" in Tours.[9] He prayed for and promoted the case for a devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus for around 30 years. The documents pertaining to the life of Sister Marie of St Peter and the devotion were kept by the Church and not released. Yet Dupont persisted. Eventually, in the year 1874 Charles-Théodore Colet was appointed as the new Archbishop of Tours. Archbishop Colet examined the documents and in 1876 gave permission for them to be published and the devotion encouraged, shortly before Dupont died. Dupont's followers have attributed the release of the documents to the power of prayers of Dupont over the previous 30 years.

Death and Veneration

By the end of his life Dupont had donated most of his fortune to a number of charities, from the Carmelites to various orphanages, Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Leo Dupont died in 1876. He was 79. Upon his death, his house on Rue St. Etienne was purchased by the Archdiocese of Tours and turned into the Oratory of the Holy Face. Archbishop Colet approved of an order of priests called the Priests of the Holy Face to administer to the chapel. The order was canonically erected in 1876 and Father Peter Javier, a friend of Dupont, was appointed as its director.

Father Javier wrote a biography of Dupont and one of Sister Marie of St Peter and the Holy Face Devotion. These books were widely distributed and started the spread of the Holy Face Devotion. Years later they influenced Saint Therese of Lisieux. The Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus was approved by Pope Leo XIII in 1885.[10]

The case for Dupont's canonization was presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 1939. The Holy See later declared him Venerable and he now awaits beatification. His feast day is December 1.


The devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus that Dupont promoted continued to flourish after his death. In the 1930s, an Italian nun, Sister Maria Pierina De Micheli associated the image of the Holy Face of Jesus from the Shroud of Turin with the devotion. Pope Pius XII approved the new image in 1958 and declared the Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus as Shrove Tuesday (the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday) for all Roman Catholics.

1950 saw the foundation of the Benedictine Congregation of the Sisters of Reparation of the Holy Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ, whose aim is an "unceasing effort to stand beside the endless crosses on which the Son of God continues to be crucified."[11]

Venerable Leo Dupont's efforts in spreading the "Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus" are chronicled in the book "The Holy Man of Tours" by Dorothy Scallan.

See also


  1. ^ Cruz 2003, p. 200.
  2. ^ , Vol. VIII, Chap. I, Burns and Oates, London, 1882Library of Religious Biography"The Life of Leon Papin-Dupont", (ed. Edw. H. Thompson),
  3. ^ Robert H. Steuart, 1937 Diversity in Holiness Sheed & Ward Press, ISBN 0-8369-0906-2 (Google Books) page 79
  4. ^ Michel Lafon, 2009 15 Days of Prayer with Saint Jeanne Jugan New City Press ISBN 1-56548-329-4 page 20
  5. ^ "St. Martin of Tours", St. Mary's Catholic Church
  6. ^ Cruz & 2003 p.195.
  7. ^ Henry Charles Lea, 2002, A History of Auricular Confession and Indulgences in the Latin Church, Adamant Media Corp. ISBN 1-4021-6108-5 page 506
  8. ^ Our Lady of Success
  9. ^ ReparationCatholic Encyclopedia:
  10. ^ Relics by Joan Carroll Cruz (Sep 1984) OSV Press, ISBN 0879737018 page 57
  11. ^ Vatican website: Letter of Pope John Paul II


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