Thursday, May 12, 2022

Germanus of Auxerre, Part 2

After Germanus defeated the Pelagians in Briton (through sheer force of his rhetorical skills, apparently, having studied eloquence and having argued the law), Germanus celebrated at the shrine of St. Alban (the first British Christian martyr). That night, St. Alban appeared to Germanus in a dream, telling the details of his martyrdom. Germanus had the story written down next morning. Our only record of St. Alban is the Passio Albani, ("Passion of [St.] Alban"), written in either the 5th or 6th century. Some scholars feel it is likely that we only have any information regarding St. Alban because Germanus had it written down.

Another anecdote about him in the Historia Brittonum ("History of the Britons," mentioned once before here) has him traveling to Britain a second time in the mid 430s or 440s, at which time he condemned for incest Guorthigern, the Vortigern of Welsh tales who figures into stories of Arthur. Vortigern tried to humiliate Germanus by having his daughter declare the bishop as the father of her child. In retaliation, Germanus cursed Vortigern, who fled into Wales pursued by Germanus and others. Vortigern holed up in a castle; Germanus and his group fasted and prayed for three days; fire from heaven fell on the castle, destroying it and all within. No historian gives any value to this story, but it is an example of Germanus' reputation.

He died in Ravenna; his feast day is 31 July.

His name lives on, at the Abbey of Saint-Germain d'Auxerre, at the church Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois which stands across from the Louvre, and several St. Germanus churches in England. He also makes appearances in literature and other media; his 2nd mission to Britain is included in the 2004 movie King Arthur, opposite Clive Owen as Arthur; in 2007, his character appears in The Last Legion where he leads the Romans and Britons against the Picts.

But back to that little girl he saw in Nanterre (see the illustration); what he told her more specifically was that she should live her life as if she were espoused to Christ. Apparently, that's exactly what she did. Tomorrow I'll introduce you to St. Geneviève of Paris.

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