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E07551: 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 how a man possessed by a demon informed the monks of Germanus' monastery at Auxerre (northern Gaul) that Germanus could not cross a river.

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posted on 07.05.2019, 00:00 by dlambert
Constantius of Lyon, Life of Germanus of Auxerre 9

For a full account of Constantius' Life of Germanus, see $E05841. This passage follows the one discussed in E06019.

Erat familiare beatissimo uiro alternis uicibus nunc ecclesiam, nunc monasterium quasi dux caelestium militum uisitare, ut certantibus studiis aemulantes ad perfectionis gloriam prouocaret. Quadam uice occupatione detentus, cum ad monasterium rogaretur, excusauit aduentum, nec multum post, absolutis morarum nexibus, insperatam fratribus suis praesentiam deferebat. Contigit ut hora eadem in monasterio unus ex his, qui pati consueuerant, uexaretur. Qui subito cum summa uoce proclamat: "Germanus ad flumen est, sed sine nauigio, non potest transmeare." Diu abbas fidem dictis negauit , dum et nequam spiritum fallere et illum non adesse quia excusauerat , iudicauit. Cumque in eadem uociferatione persisteret, missus unus ex fratribus ueridicum fuisse daemonem nuntiauit. Nauigium mittitur, transit sacerdos et cum ea qua solebat gratulatione suscipitur. Incumbit sine mora orationi, congregatio tota prosternitur: cum subito per inane aeris inuisibilibus nexibus hostis religatus adpenditur, et id tantum morarum fuit, dum de oratione consurgitur, nihilque aliud deprecatus est quam ut cum aliqua corporis debilitate discederet. Quo interdicto, foeda relinquens uestigia, cum eo quo erat dignus foetore discessit.

'The man of blessings made it his practice, as general of the soldiers of God, to stay alternately at the monastery and the church, to set the goal of perfection before each of the rivals in this warfare. On one occasion, when he had been invited to the monastery, he was detained by business and excused himself from coming. A little later, however, when the cause of the delay had been disposed of, he set off to give the brethren a surprise. Now, some of them were troubled by demons and it happened that just then one of the sufferers was in the grip of one. Suddenly he announced at the top of his voice: "Germanus is at the river but cannot cross because he has no boat." For a long time the abbot gave no credence to this assertion, supposing the evil spirit to be lying, since the Bishop had excused himself and would not be coming. But he persisted in his cries and one of the brethren was sent and reported that the demon was right. A boat was sent and the bishop crossed and was received with the usual fervour. He fell at once to praying and the community knelt with him. Suddenly the demoniac rose in the empty air, held by invisible cords. There was no more delay than was necessary for the Bishop to rise from prayer, and all that he required of the demon was that it should go out of the man with some bodily weakness of his. Thus adjured, it departed, leaving filth behind it and a stench worthy of it.'

This passage is followed by the one discussed in $E07552.

Text: Borius 1965. Translation: Hoare 1954.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity 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 - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracles experienced by the saint Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future) Exorcism Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Demons


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.


This incident is narrated during part of the Life (§§ 7-11) in which Constantius narrates miracles which took place in Germanus' see of Auxerre (most of the Life is devoted to events that take place elsewhere). In this case the incident refers to the cathedral and its clergy, and to the monastery founded by Germanus outside the city, on the far side of the River Yonne. Its foundation is mentioned in Life of Germanus § 6.


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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