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to the names of Saints who have sealed the Faith with
theii' blood, else were he excluded from them. He was
a Confessor. In the presence of danger and amidst much
suffering, he bore witness to truth and opposed profane
violence. Yet were his sufferings chiefly self-imposed ;

' Gallia Christ. Abbayes de France Beaunier, torn. II.


and occasioned by the mortifications of a singularly
ascetic life ; and unless we except the temporary diffi-
culties to which he was exposed by the contact of bar-
barian chieftains, voyages at sea, and opposition of her-
etics, his life may be said to have passed on the whole
calmly and quietly. He died at Ravenna in Italy, sur-
rounded by tlie imperial court, and attended by several
bishops of note. In the later martyrologies, his day is
appointed to be kept on the 31st of July, as the editions
of the Roman, by Baronius and Usuard, shew. But in
ancient times, the 1st of October was, together with the
former, observed in his honour ; and it is no small
commendation (if he needed any,) that his memory was
blessed solemnly by the universal Church in the West
twice a year. At Auxerre, as many as six days were
devoted to the praise of its Patron. One may add for
tlie benefit of persons accustomed to distinguish between
the relative importance of days, that the 31st of July
is still kept in France as a Duplex, and at Auxerre as
a Duplex Primaj Classis, according to the dignity of the
Patron of a Church.

But we have yet to inquire before we enter upon the
details of his life, what was that peculiar connexion
of St. German with England which has deserved
him the title of an English Saint. A short notice
in one of Bede's^ minor works will explain tliis point
sufficiently for the present purpose. " The Pelagian
heresy, he says, was disturbing the faith of the Britons ;
on which account they implored the assistance of the
Bishops of Gaul, who sent to them German, Bishop of
Auxerre, and Lupus of Troyes, both endued with Apos-
tolical gifts, to defend the Christian paitli. The two
Bishops, on arriving, restored religion to its purity by

' Bede de sex Aetatibus ad an. 4402.


the word of truth and the evidence of miracles. More-
over the Saxons and Picts were engaged in war with
the Britons at that time, and had united their forces.
Whereupon the two champions undertook tlieir defence,
and through Divine interposition defeated the enemy.
For German assumed himself the conduct of the Avar,
and instead of making use of the Trumpet, gave orders
that the whole army should strike up the cry of Alle-
lujah, which terrified their formidable adversaries to
such a degree that they took to flight." This, as it will
be seen, occurred in his first visit to England ; but he also
j)aid the Britons a second, the circumstances of which
are not in all points attainable from the remains of so
early a period. The fact however is certain, and is
not only related by Constantius, the original biographer
of St. German, by Bede, and Hericus a monk of Aux-
erre, but testified by the words of the martyrology of
this last town. " The 31st of July, it says, is sacred
as the day of the decease of St. German of Auxerre, at
Ravenna. He was a bishop distinguished for his birth,
faith, doctrine, and wonderful gift of miracles. Having
been sent into Great Britain together with St. Lupus,
of Troyes, by the prelates of Gaul, he overthrew the
Pelagian heresy in that island ; and again a second
time having resorted thither with Severus of Treves, he
entirely eradicated the remaining seeds of that error."
It will be seen by this that the companion of St. Ger-
man Avas not the same on the two occasions, the former
being St. Lupus, Bishop of Troyes, the brother of the
famous Vincentius Lirinensis, and the friend of St. Si-
donius Apollinaris, and the latter Severus, an eminent
Bishop of Treves, the residence of the imperial Prefect.
These are the principal reasons which justify us in
ranking him among our OAvn Avorthies. Nor is he


solitary in this claim to naturalization. Palladiu?, (not
to speak of St. Augustino, tlic jrreat Arelibishop of Can-
terbury, and many others,) Palladius, the apostle of the
Scots, was not a Briton ; some have thought he was a
Greek by birth, who was attached to the Roman See.
In truth there are distinguished persons in history who
a^jpear to belong to no nation exclusively, but to be the
common property of society. Of this kind were the
Apostles of our Lord ; they were claimed as Patrons by
every Church they visited, and their Jewish origin was
merged, so to say, in the wider privileges of Catholic
l)irthriglit. Such also in his degree was St. German.
He is French, because he flourished in Gaul ; he is
British, because he converted Britain from heresy ; he
is Italian, because he terminated his glorious career at
Kavenna. Next to the service of establishing primarily
the Christian Faith in a nation, none may deserve higher
praise (if the word may be used for what is above
praise,) than that of extirpating error, and restoring
the Doctrines of the Church to their natural purity.
Such was St. German's work for the British Church.
The establishment of Christianity in this island dates,
as has been already remarked, from times Apostolical ;
but in process of time Orthodoxy was assailed by the per-
versions of the well known Polagius, who in all proba-
bility was himself a Briton, and who by means of his
emissaries created a schism in our Church, and threat-
ened the very foundations of its existence. Deputed
by the Galilean bishops with the sanction of Pope
Celestine, German fulfilled the object of his mission,
and secured to himself the eternal obligations of the
Britons, with the illustrious title of Apostle.

Were there not very vague notions afloat of the state
of Christendom in the fifth century, it might be suflR-


cient to leave the details of his life to adapt themselves
to the circumstances of his times, according to general
principles of history. But the particular crisis in which
the Western world was placed when he was raised to
the office of Bishop, has given rise to some confusion.
In the minds of many there is no middle between an
age of barbarism and one of refinement. But in truth,
the line by which we may distinguish one period from
another, is often arbitrary and indefinite. On the bare
mention of the invasion of the barbarians, some Avould
expect nothing but ignorance, vice, and superstition.
Yet in general the most overbearing revolutions are
incapable of destrojdng at once the great features of the
manners of any period. There is a state of transition
which precedes a new era, and which partakes of the
characteristics of the two contending influences. The
middle ages are supposed to begin with the invasion of
the barbarians in the fifth century ; but whoever will
consider the protracted existence of Roman institutions
and manners for centuries after that time, wiU necessarily
abate his ideas of barbarian ascendancy. The great in-
vasion of the Goths into Gaul took place in 406, that is,
twelve years before St. German was Bishop of Auxerre,
and twenty-eight after his birth, consequently in the
very flower of his years. Honorius, the brother of Arca-
dius, and the son of Theodosius the Great, was then
emperor of the "West. The effects of this invasion were
dreadful beyond description. Its fury seems chiefly to
have raged in that part of France in which Auxerre is
situated. Mayence, Strasbourg, Spires, Rheims, Tour-
nay, Arras, Amiens, situated in the north-eastern parts
of that country, are noted as the objects of unlimited
devastation. " The consuming flames of war," says
Gibbon, " spread from the banks of the Rhine over the


greatest part of the seventeen provinces of Gaul. That
rich, and extensive countiy, as far as the ocean, the
Alps and the Pyi-enees, was delivered to the barbarians,
who drove before them, in a promiscuous crowd, the
bishop, the senator, and the virgin, laden Avith the spoils
of their homes and altars." Traces, it may be added,
were left long after at Auxerre of the presence of these
relentless invaders. But after all the accumulated cir-
cumstances of their oppression are taken into account, it
still remains constant that the great bulk of the people
in Gaul continued Roman in institutions, manners, lan-
guage, arts, and religion. There was no indiscriminate
division of the conquered lands among the conquerors, as
Montesquieu has proved, and in many cases conditions
Avere stipulated, which, Avhile they secured the liberty of
tlie natives, were more advantageous to the aggressors
than wanton violence. Again, though we should admit
the most extreme opinions concerning the multitude of
the barbarian invaders, yet had they been distributed
over so large a country as Gaul, their numbers Avould
have been very inadequate for any sudden revolution.
Consequently, in the first invasion of 406, it appears
their sojourn in particular places was not long ; and
after they had exei'cised their wonted pillage, they
moved onward Avithout securing Avhat they left behind.
Thus Auxerre, with a large district in its vicinity, re-
turned to the dominion of the Romans, Avho continued
as before their magistrates and generals throughout tliat
country. St. German himself, as Ave shall see, Avas duke
and govei-nor in obedience to Rome. The Franks seem
to have been the first Avho took regular possession of
Auxerre and the provinces around it, and in process of
time it Avas conceded to the king of the Burgundians,
the comparative leniency of whose government is Avell


known. But there was another cause not less effectual
in diminishing the pernicious effects of the invasion,
and which ought not to be overlooked.

The ascendancy of moral and intellectual endow-
ments is so great, that when two hostile powers are
brought into contact for any length of time, physical
strength almost invariably yields in some measure to
the sway of mental superiority. The Goths became a
different people after they had taken possession of Gaul.
The court of Toulouse rivalled that of Ravenna in the
protection of literature and arts, and in the elegancy of
its forms. " The odious name of conquerors," says
Gibbon again, " was softened into the mild and friendly
appellation of the guests of the Romans ; and the bar-
barians of Gaul repeatedly declared, that they Avere
bound to the people by the ties of hospitality, and to
the emperor by the duty of allegiance and military ser-
vice. The title of Honorius and his successors, their
laws, and their civil magistrates, were still respected in
the provinces of Gaul, of which they had resigned the
possession to the barbarian allies ; and the kings, who
exercised a supreme and independent authority over
their native subjects, ambitiously solicited the more
honourable rank of master-generals of the imperial
armies. Such was the involuntary reverence which
the Roman name still impressed on the minds of those
Avarriors who had borne aAvay in triumph the spoils of
the Capitol." The sofuth of France moreover it must
be remembered, continued long in the possession of the
Romans. It comprehended what was called Septimania,
or the Seven Provinces, of which Aides was the seat of
Government. There the Pretorian Prefect of all Gaul
had his residence. The vicinity of this strong-hold of


old Roman civilization and splendour tended not a little
to soften the barbarians throughout the land.

As a general fact, the invasion of the barbarians
produced an undoubted decay in the cultivation of
letters, and Sidonius Aj^ollinaris^ deplores, in his letters
many years after, the neglect into Avhich the schools
of learning were falling. AYithout stopping to observe
that the attainments of St. German himself would not
be affected by this circumstance, since his education
must have been completed many years before the inva-
sion, the expressions of Sidonius are to be understood
with great limitations. There were many like himself
who had enjoyed all the advantages of a liberal educa-
tion, Faustus of Eiez,2 Claudian Mamertus, Lupus,
Constantius, Probus, and many others. The study of
classical literature was still the great resource of the
higher classes, and very frequently the disturbance of
the times instead of diverting men from intellectual
pleasures, was the occasion of their popularity. Ferreo-
lus and Apollinaris, two distinguished persons, who had
retired from public life on account of the impossibility
of adapting high principles to the proceedings of state
affaii's, would thus naturally consider their libraries, as
one of the chief ornaments and resources of their mag-
nificent seats, where the danger of indulging in political
conversations would be compensated by the freedom with
which literary characters were canvassed. Not only
all the writings of antiquity whi«h have come to our
knowledge were familiar to persons of education, but
authors are alluded to by them which are totally un-
known to us. IMoreover schools had been established
in Gaul so early as Tiberius's reign ; the study of the

> B. II. Lett. X. p. 172.
2 Sidon. Ep. iv. I. p. 31S. See also Anquetil, torn. I. p. 221.


sciences had been encouraged by several edicts from
successive Emperors ; and by degrees that country had
become the seat of learning and talent. The author of
St. German's life mentions his attendance at the Audi-
toria Gallicana, or Gallic schools, and we learn from
St. Jerome that at the same time the liberal arts were
in the most flourishing condition in Gaul. The prin-
cipal universities (for such they seem to have been)
were at Treves, Bordeaux, Autun, Toulouse, Lyons,
Marseilles, and other great towns. Their importance
may be estimated by the attention paid to them by the
government. Repeated edicts were issued for their
advantage. An extract from that of Gratian in the
year 376, only two years before St. German's birth, is
too interesting to be omitted.

" Gratian Augustus to Antony, Pretorian Prefect of
all Gaul.

" In the great cities, which belong to the district com-
mitted to your^ Magnificence, and which are distin-
guished for professors of learning, the most accomplished
must preside at the education of the youth ; whether
teachers of rhetoric or grammar in the Grecian and
Homan languages. The orators^ are to receive from
the treasury the salary of twenty four measures ; and
the Greek and Latin grammarians, according to custom,
may be content with twelve measures. In order also
that those cities, which claim metropolitan privileges,
may have the choice of professors, (inasmuch as each
town may not be enabled to pay sufficiently for masters
and instructors,) we intend to add something for the
advantage of Treves : and enjoin that thirty measures

' The titles bestowed upon the various ofFicers of the Empire
was a point of great nicety, in the fourth and fifth centuries.
- The orators here are the same as the professors of rhetoric.


be granted to the professor of rhetoric, twenty to the
Latin, and twelve to tlie Greek, master of grammar."

It is no contradiction to what has been said, that the
general taste had very much degenerated since the
Augustan age. The fact indeed cannot be denied,
though opinion as to its extent and application, may
vary according to the prejudices of individuals. But
the taste of an age is not a certain criterion of the con-
dition of learning and science. It sometimes happens
that the greatest diffusion of knowledge is not accom-
panied with an equal degree of judgment and refine-
ment. But whatever sjonptoms of decay may have
been perceptible in the public schools of "Western
Europe, they Avere more than counterbalanced by the
ardour and industry which was bestowed upon theolo-
gical studies. And it is very probable that the true
cause of those complaints to which Sidonius Apollina-
ris gave vent concerning the neglect of learning, arose
more from the distaste of Pagan literature which the
institution of Christianity produced, than from the im-
mediate influence of the barbarians. Do what they
would, to use a famiUar expression, the greatest votaries
of classical piirsuits, were finally compelled to follow
the tide of opinion, or rather were themselves alienated
from a subject which corresponded so imperfectly with
the new sympathies of their nature. The author just
quoted, so skilled in poetical art, so successful in
elegant composition, himself grew weary of his former
occupations, and devoted the latter years of his life to
the deeper studies of a Christian Bishop. Claudian
Mamertus, a man of considerable genius, was famous
for his pliilosophical attainments, yet to him was the
Church indebted for very different services in Christian
doctrine, and the introduction of a more perfect system


of psalmody and public Avorship.^ In fact the whole
energy of Europe was concentrated upon one object :
the new Faith which had lately taken possession of the
nations and brought at last the imperial power into its
obedience. Gaul was not behind other countries in
giving evidence of the zeal which had been kindled.
Clu'istian literature became the general subject of in-
terest. Commentaries on the sacred scriptures, trea-
tises on ecclesiastical offices, practical exhortations, ex-
positions of orthodox doctrine, occupied the attention
of all. Foremost stood the monks of Lerins, in their
labours for the truth. Lerins was an island to the
south of France, where St. Honoratus had founded a
monastery after the example of Cassian, and Cassian
had lately brought over from Egypt the monastic
system and established it at St. Victor in Marseilles.
These two settlements proved the seat of religious
and intellectual activity. Many of the eminent writers
of the time were there brought up. Besides the two
distinguished founders just mentioned, Vincentius sur-
named Lirinensis, St. Hilary, St. Lupus, Faustus, and
others, had been disciplined by the rule of Lerins. These
were contemporaries of St. German, and in all pro-
bability well acquainted with him ; two we have positive
evidence of having been his friends, St. Hilary of Aides,
and St. Lupus of Troyes. But there is a peculiar cir-
cumstance connected with these monastic houses, wliich
tended greatly to promote religious studies in Gaul.
This was, as is well known, the contest which had been
awakened throughout Christendom between the sectaries
of Pelagius and the Church. No country took a more
ardent part in the struggle than Gaul, and no particular
spot centered in itself so much controversial warmth as

■ See Sidon. Ep. iv. 11.


Lerins. Times of religious controversy are probably the
most conspicuous for the energetic display of the moral
and intellectual faculties. Discussions on abstract ques-
tions of philosophy, or even on subjects of political
interest do not always avail to rouse the feelings of
mankind in general. One country, one city, one school,
often absorbs all the sympathy which they fexcite. But
when religion and the interests of the soul, are the
subjects of debate, the sparks of human energy are
kindled as by a charm and spread with the rapidity of
an electric fluid. Opinions work upon actions, and
actions re-act upon opinions ; the defence of truth or
error, stirs up the moral powers and leads men on to
deeds of vigour, the character of which depends on the
principle which first gave birth to them ; again the
effects of active zeal reflect upon the opinions and
systems of men, and raise them to those heights of
speculative and logical abstraction which are the won-
der of beholders, and the enigma of future generations.
This w^as remarkably exemplified in the age of St.
German. Theology ^vas beginning to assume that
systematic shape which it maintained and developed
during successive ages. The attacks of heretics directed
against every part of orthodox doctrine, at one time
impugning the articles of faith, at another the canons
of discipline and order, had exercised the anus of the
Catholics. They had learnt by encountering so many
various sects, the analogy of the Faith, and at the same
time the connexion of error. Hence they were enabled
to dig more deeply round the foundations of Chris-
tianity, and to anticipate the introduction of false teach-
ing, by advancing to the abstruse and ultimate prin-
ciples of all religion.



•S*^. Germans Youth.

St. German was born at Auxerre in the Diocese of
the Ai'chbishop of Sens, probably about the year 378.
Gratian was Emperor of the West, and Valens of the
East. The following year Theodosius the Great came
to the throne of Constantinople. ^

Little is known of his early years. Constantius, his
original biographer, informs us that his parents were of
noble rank. Their names were Eusticus and Germa-
nilla, and long after their death their memory was
preserved at Auxei're, where German had erected a
chapel over their remains.^ There is no authority
however for considering them in the light of canonized
Saints. It is certain they attended carefully to the
education of their son ; and from the silence of ancient
writers, one might infer he was an only son. This
however is not necessary to account for the excellence
of his education ; it never was a feature of the Roman
character to neglect the education of the youth ; and
those of noble birth were in the foiu-th and fifth
centuries as careful on this subject as they might have
been in Cicero's time. Consequently Gennan was
instructed in the seven liberal arts, Grammar, Rhetoric,
Logic, Music, Arithmetic, Geometry and Astronomy.
The progress he made in them was proportioned to the
abilities and judgment with wliich nature had endued
him. To enter profoundly into the study of any, or

' Art de Verifier les Dates, torn. I. p. 396. Anquetil. torn.
I. p. 216.

- Hericus tie Mir. ch. II. 19.

16 ST. German's youth.

to arriAe at equal information in all, was not the object
of this prci)aratory course, or, as Eusebius calls it, ency-
clic instruction. ^ Exclusive attention to any particu-
lar branch of learning, was reserved for a subsequent
period, when tlie youth were sent to the Universities,
which, as we have seen, were in a very flourishing con-
dition at this time. Law was that which was marked
out for German, The knowledge and even profession
of the Law, was almost necessary for the young pre-
tenders to dignities and ofiices. It does not appear to
have incapacitated them from bearing arms, and the
two professions were not unfrequently united in the same
person.*^ But it was the Career of the Pleader which
was emphatically called the " Nursery of Honours."'
" Hardly, says a contemporary writer, were the suits of
the barrister at an end, than his titles and dignities
began.""* We cannot be surprised at this, when we
remember the important part which eloquence held in
the Roman constitution The corruption again of
manners would afford a larger scope for the talents of
the Pleader, than is possible in a well regulated state ;
and though the public acuteness and discernment would
naturally progress as the art became more refined, yet
would there be numerous occasions where the wit of one
man might divert the minds of the judges into the
channel he wished. Full proof of this fact is to be
found in the records of the age.^

Wliat danger however was involved in the state of
life to which German was destined, he would have met

■ Tijy E7xv)cXiav criiSt/a Book vi. ch. 2. see Valesius's learned note.

- See Sidon ApoU. Lib. xi. B. i. p. 58, and his Life.

3 " Seminarium dignitalum," Nov. Theod. xxxiv.

- Sid. Apoll. B. 1. Lett. xi. p. 60.
* See Sid. Ap. B. ii. Lett. v. and B. ii. Lett. vii.


with considerable advantage. He was a Christian, and
his parents were Christians. He lived in a place
adorned by holy Bishops, from whom all that spiritual
care, which parents are insufficient to bestow, was to
be expected. The Sacraments to which laymen are
admitted would have been early offered to him, though
we have no direct intimation of it. For it was con-
sidered so important a neglect in Novatian, that after
the Baptism he received on the bed of sickness, which
the ancients called Clinical baptism, he had not sought
for confirmation at the hands of the Bishop, ^ that Pope
Cornelius doubted whether he had been partaker of the

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanLives of the English saints (Volume 2) → online text (page 12 of 33)