St. Germanus of Auxerre
Also known as
• Germain of Auxerre
• 31 July
Born to a noble Gallic family, the son of Rusticus and Germanilla. Studied general topics in Arles and Lyon in France, and rhetoric and civil law in Rome, Italy. Successful lawyer for several years. Married to Eustachia, a member of the nobility with close ties to the emperor. Imperial governor of part of Gaul, based in Auxerre.
He led a worldly life, and frequently hung hunting trophies on an enormous, ancient tree that had been an object of worship by local pagans. This led to condemnation by Saint Amator of Auxerre, who said he set a terrible example, and was leading people back to their pagan origins. Germain ignored him, so Amator cut down the tree and burned the trophies. Germain tracked down Amator, intending to kill him; Amator forced the tonsure on Germain, made him a deacon, and told him to live as one destined to be a bishop. Germain took the whole incident to be an action of the Holy Spirit, and changed completely. He devoted himself to prayer, study and charity. When Saint Amator died soon after, Germain was unanimously chosen bishop of Auxerre on 7 July 418.
His administrative skills served Germain well in his new position. He gave away his property to the poor, and lived as a pauper. Converted and trained Saint Camilla. Dispatched with Lupus of Troyes to the British Isles by Pope Celestine I in 429, he fought the Pelagianist heresy in Britain. While en route he met the young child Saint Genevieve. One early document says that Saint Patrick was part of Germain’s entourage. Once the Pelagians were in retreat, Germain travelled Britain, preaching and setting up seminaries; he trained Saint Brieuc of Brittany for his mission.
Germain returned to France, obtained tax relief for the people of his diocese, and built the church of Saint Alban in Auxerre. In 447 he returned to Britain with Severus of Trèves. They evangelized in Wales, and helped the Britons with a battle over invading Saxons and Picts. When he returned to Gaul, Germain found that the Armoricans in Brittany were going to be severely punished for a rebellion against the empire. He obtained a stay of execution for them until he could appeal to the emperor. In Ravenna, Italy he met with Saint Peter Chrysologus, pled his case to empress Galla Placidia, obtained pardon for the people, and died there a short time later.
• c.378 at Auxerre, France
• 31 July 448 at Ravenna, Italy of natural causes
• interred in the Oratory of Saint Maurice, Auxerre, France
• re-interred in the church of Saint Germain that was built by Queen Clotilda on the site of the Oratory
• body found intact when re-located in the church several centuries later
• in 1567 the Huguenots desecrated the shrine and threw out the relics
• relics in Saint Marion abbey are reported to be Saint Germain’s, but this cannot be proven
• bishop carrying a knife
• bishop trampling on a judge
• Auxerre, France