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E05847: Constantius of Lyon, in his Life of *Germanus (bishop of Auxerre, ob. c. 448, S00455), written in Latin at Lyon (central Gaul) between c. 460 and c. 480, describes Germanus' death during a visit to Ravenna, the way in which people sought his relics, and the transportation of his body back to Auxerre.

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posted on 22.06.2018, 00:00 by dlambert
Constantius of Lyon, Life of Germanus of Auxerre 42-46

For a full account of Constantius' Life of Germanus, see $E05841.

Germanus travels to Ravenna in order to intercede with the emperor on behalf of the people of Armorica (§ 28). The Life gives a lengthy account of his journey to Ravenna (§§ 29-34) and of his activities and reception there (§§ 35-40). Germanus is warned in a dream that he will shortly die (§ 41); soon afterwards he falls ill, and, as he has foreseen, the illness is fatal (§ 42). During his illness he is visited by the empress Placidia, who offers to provide anything he wishes; his only request is that his remains should be returned to his homeland.

(42.) ... Septimo incommodi die ad caelos anima fidelis et beata transfertur. (43.) Hereditas deinceps relicta diuiditur: partem praesumit imperium, partem uindicant sacerdotes, et quod fieri de opibus solet nascitur de exiguitate contentio, dum deest quod capiant solius benedictionis heredes. Capsulam cum sanctis regina suscepit; cucullam cum interiore cilicio Petrus episcopus usurpauit. Sex uero antistites ut aliquid monumenti ex successione sanctitatis acciperent, disrumpere quod superfuerat maluerunt: unus pallium, cingulum alter accepit; duo tunicam, duo sagulum diuiserunt.

(44.) Deinde ad apparatum defuncti feruent studia conferentum, accusantum cur parua expensa mortuo deberetur. Acolius corpus aromatum constrictione solidauit, regina uestiuit. Quibus omnibus rite perfectis, expensis et euectionibus iter instruit imperator ministrosque eius copiosa largitione prosequitur. Sacerdotes religionis obsequium et in praesenti instruunt et ordinatione praemittunt, unumque agmen informatur ad Gallias.

'(42.) ... The seventh day of the illness saw the passing of his faithful and blessed soul to heaven. (43.) Then came the division of what he had left behind him. The empire and the church each claimed a share; and over his scanty possessions there arose a dispute such as we associate with great riches—there was so little for them to seize, poor heirs of a mere benediction! The empress took the reliquary; Bishop Peter [of Ravenna] annexed the cloak with the hair-shirt inside it. The six prelates, to make sure of having something associated with the saint, were glad to tear to pieces what remained. One had his pallium, the second his girdle, two divided his tunic, and two his soldier's cape.

(44.) Next came an eager rivalry over his funeral, everyone insisting that no expense should be spared. Acolius [see $E06023] had the body embalmed in spices; the empress saw to its vestments. When all this was duly accomplished, the emperor provided the bier and the equipage for the journey and a large body of his own servants to attend them. The clergy were in charge of the changing of the liturgy, at each stage arranging for it to be carried on by those of the next town—there was one long procession all the way to Gaul.'

For § 45, an account of a posthumous miracle by Germanus at Piacenza in northern Italy, see $E05849.

(46.) Excipiunt Galliae patronum proprium maiore famulatu, quippe ubi reuerentiae iungebatur affectus. Omne hominum genus diuerso occurrit officio; alii uias, praeruptis depositis, molliunt et pontium innouatione continuant, alii expensas ingerunt, alii psalmis intonant, alii colla subponunt. Refulgebat, repercusso solis radio, splendorem sibi per diem uindicans luminum multitudo, tantoque ministerio caritatis propriae redditur ciuitati ubi sepultus corpore cotidianis miraculis uiuit et gloria.

'(46.) Even greater was the devotion manifested in Gaul to its own protector, for there was personal affection as well as reverence. Every kind of person hastened to perform every kind of service. Some smoothed the roads by clearing away stones, others linked them by restoring bridges. Some contributed to the expenses, others chanted the psalms, others again took the bier onto their shoulders. The profusion of torches ousted the sun's rays and provided light for the day. Such were the services of love with which he was brought back to his own see, where his body is buried but he himself lives on in his daily miracles and his glory.'

Text: Borius 1965. Translation: Hoare 1954. Summary: David Lambert.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, ob. c. 448 : S00455

Saint Name in Source




Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Lyon Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Procession

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Ceremonies at burial of a saint

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Monarchs and their family Eunuchs

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - saint’s possession and clothes Privately owned relics Reliquary – privately owned


Germanus of Auxerre (PCBE 4, 'Germanus 1', pp. 878-883) was the most important and revered episcopal saint of 5th century Gaul. The Life of Germanus was written at an uncertain date, some years after Germanus' death, which is traditionally dated to 448 (but some scholars would place up to twelve years earlier). The Life was probably written at some point between about 465 and 480. The author was Constantius (PCBE 4, 'Constantius 3', pp. 521-522), a literary figure, possibly a cleric, attested as active in Lyon in the 460s and 470s. For full discussion of the issues relating to the authorship and date of the Life of Germanus, see E05841.


The depositio was 1 October


Editions: Borius, R., Constance de Lyon, Vie de saint Germain d'Auxerre (Sources chrétiennes 112; Paris, 1965), with French translation. Levison, W., Vita Germani episcopi Autissiodorensis auctore Constantio, in: Passiones vitaeque sanctorum aevi Merovingici V (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 7; Hannover and Leipzig, 1919), 246-283. English translation: Hoare, F.R., The Western Fathers (London, 1954), 283-320. Reprinted in T.F.X. Noble and T. Head (eds.), Soldiers of Christ: Saints and Saints' Lives from Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (University Park PA, 1995), 75-106.

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