Germanus of Auxerre
name= Saint Germanus of Auxerre
death_date=31 July, 448
Roman Catholic Church
Germanus of Auxerre (c. 378–
31 July, 448) was a bishop of Auxerrein Gaul. He is a saintin both the Roman Catholicand Orthodox churches, commemorated on July 31. He visited Britain in 429 in response to the growth of Pelagianismthere and the records of his visit provide valuable information on the state of post-Roman British society.
The principal source for the events of his life is the
hagiographywritten by Constantius of Lyonaround 480. Constantius was a friend of Bishop Lupus of Troyes, who accompanied Germanus to Britain, which provided him with a link to Germanus.
Near 429, a British bishop's son named Agricola started leading the native
Christians toward Pelagianism. A Gaulish assembly of bishops chose Germanus and Lupus, Bishop of Troyes, to visit the island to combat the threat and satisfy the Popethat the British church would not break away from the Augustinian teachings of divine grace.
Visit to Britain
Germanus and Lupus confronted the Pelagians at a public meeting before a huge crowd in Britain. The Pelagians were described as being 'conspicuous for riches, brilliant in dress and surrounded by a fawning multitude' indicating that the post-Roman ruling classes had not been entirely wiped out and still had wealth and influence. Alternatively, this may be embellishment by Constantius who wished to magnify the achievements of his subject. The bishops debated and despite having no popular support, Germanus was able to defeat the Pelagians using his superior
Following the meeting, Germanus and Lupus visited the shrine of
Saint Alban, suggesting that the site of the debate was at Verulamium, or perhaps London( Londinium). Constantius also recounts the miraculous healing of the son of 'a man with tribunician power'. This use of the word tribune may imply the existence of some form of post-Roman government system. However, in Constantius' lifetime tribune had acquired a more loose definition, and often was used to indicate any military officer, whether part of the Imperial army or part of a town militia.
Germanus led the native Britons to a victory against a Pictish and Saxon army, at a mountainous site near a river. Mold in North
Walesis the traditional location. After baptising his troops (notably, they were not Christians) he ordered them all to cry 'Alleluia!' The sound apparently so terrified the invaders that they fled before battle could be brought. That Germanus took command may mean that the ruling Pelagian classes had been discredited after losing the debate at Verulamium or even that they themselves had enlisted the Saxons and Picts. The contemporary British warlord Vortigerncertainly made use of Saxon mercenariesand the political aspects of Pelagianism have been much discussed. It has been suggested by Peter Salway that the battle was fought to ensure that Britain remained sympathetic to Aëtius and support his bid for control of the Western Roman Empire.
Although Germanus is traditionally credited with the establishment of the
Diocese of Sodor and Manon the Isle of Man, this was probably a different man of a similar name.The link with Saint Patrick, traditionally portrayed as his pupil, is also contested in recent scholarship.
Germanus made a second visit to Britain in the 440s, joined by
Severus, Bishop of Trierand meeting Elafius, described by Bedeas 'a chief of that region'. Germanus cured Elafius' enfeebled son and this miracle served to persuade the population again that Gaulish Catholicism rather than Pelagianism was the true faith.
He died in
Ravennawhile petitioning the Roman government for leniency for the citizens of Armorica, against whom Aëtius had dispatched the Alanson a punitive expedition. Scholars have argued, based on the scanty evidence, that his death should be dated to 445, 446, 447 or 448.
St. Germanus' tomb remains venerated in the Abbey Church,
Abbey of Saint-Germain en Auxerre, which although part of municipal museum remains open for worship at stated times. There is a tradition of a panegyricon the Sunday nearest to or preceding his festival in July.
St. German of Auxerre's
cultspread in northern France, hence the church bearing his name facing the Louvrein Paris. His cult is clearly distinguished from that of the homonymous St. German of Paris. He is associated with the church at Charonne in the east of Paris and the cult of St. Genevieve (Genoveva) in Nanterreto the west of the city, both situated on the late Roman roadnetwork. His journey to Britain is commemorated in his dedications at Siouville and at St. Germain les Vaux in the Cotentin(Manche).
Scholars have contested the traditional identification with the Welsh St. Garmon, reflected in
north Wales placenames'Llanarmon'. More recently however, a Bodley church dedicated to this saint was erected in an eastern suburb of Cardiff.
The former priory church at St.German's in
Cornwallbears his name and was previously the seat of a bishopric.
Fictional portrayals of Germanus
* Germanus figures in the 2004 movie "King Arthur", although his second and final mission to Britain took place twenty years before the year the movie is set in. He is portrayed by Italian actor
* His visit to Britain is the subject of a Welsh radio play by
Saunders Lewisentitled "Buchedd Garmon".
* Germanus appears many times in the
Jack Whyteseries "A Dream of Eagles'" and "The Golden Eagle" .
Hilaire Bellocreferred to Germanus in his humorous poem, "The Pelagian Drinking Song":
:"And with his stout Episcopal staff":"So thoroughly whacked and banged":"The heretics all, both short and tall --":"They rather had been hanged."
*F.R. Hoare, "The Western Fathers" (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1965). A translation of the "Life of St Germanus" appears on pp. 283-320.
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06472b.htm Catholic Encyclopedia article]
*E G Bowen, "The Dedications of the Celtic Saints in Wales".
* E.A Thompson, "Saint Germanus of Auxerre and the End of Roman Britain" (Woodbridge, 1984).
* I.N Wood, ‘The End of Roman Britain: Continental Evidence and Parallels’, in M. Lapidge & D. Dumville ed. "Gildas: New Approaches" (Woodbridge, Suffolk ; Dover, New Hampshire, 1984), pp. 1 – 25.
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