John Henry Newman.

Lives of the English saints (Volume 2) online

. (page 14 of 33)
Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanLives of the English saints (Volume 2) → online text (page 14 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

There is no distinct relation of the measure in wliich
Auxerre sufi'ered during the invasion, except what is
involved in the vague expressions of St. Jerome and

' See Gallia Christ, 262. and Tillemont, t, xv.
- See Ileric. de Mir. Tillemont, torn. xv.


Orosius. However one victim of the barbarian's fury,
as is supposed, a native of that city, and a child, has
been preserved in the memory of posterity among the
Acts of martyrs. ^ When the Jiead of St, Just, (for so he
was called,) was brought to his mother who resided at
Auxerre, the house in which it was bestowed, was seen
to spread forth a bright light. St. Amator having
perceived it as he rose up to say his nightly office,
inquired the cause of it, and upon learning what had
happened, returned thanks to God for the honour of
this martyrdom during his episcopate ; after which he
gave orders for a public procession, and deposited the
head of St. Just, in the place destined for its sepulture.
This account, if it may not Avith more probability be
referred to the persecution of Maximian a century
before, according to the poetical narrative found among
Bede's works, seems to prove that the effects of the
invasion were felt at least in the neighbom*hood of
Auxerre, though there is no positive account of any
siege of that town. At a later period it is certain that
the barbarians occupied the place, for there was an
interval of ten years, during which the succession of
the Bishops was suspended by the Goths. ^ But
for the details of the first invasions between 406 and
409, we can only draw inferences. St. Jerome says,^
" Innumerable and savage nations have occupied the
tvliole of Gaul. JVhatever is situated between the
Alps and the Pyrenees, the Ocean and the Rhine, is
laid waste by the Quadi, Vandals, Sai'matians, Alani,
Gepides, Heruli, Saxons, Burgundians, Alemanni and
Pannonians. — Mayence, that noble city, has been taken

' Vid. Tillemont, torn. xv.

- See Hericus Prologue to the De Miracul. 2.

^ Ep. cxxiii. ad Ageruchiam. Ed. Venet. torn. I. 914.


and sacked, and thousands liave perished in her Church.
AYorms, after a long siege, has been utteriy destroyed.
The powerful towns of liheims, Ainiens and Arras, have
been the prey of their fury. Terouenne, Tournay, Spires,
and Strasburg, are converted into German provinces.
Aquitain, Novempopulania, Lugdunensis, Narbon-
nensis, with the exception of very few towns, have
been entirely pillaged, &c." There is reason to think
Auxerre would be included in the general name of
Lugdunensis, the limits of which are so imperfectly
defined. And the course of the bai'barians from
Rheims to Toulouse, where they ultimately settled,
would naturally be directed through the Diocese which
Amator governed.

Such was the condition of the Church in which Ger-
man was born, the Bishop whose influence balanced
his own, and the succession which he was afterwards
to take up.


St. Amator and St. German.

Like all the great men in Gaul, German had his
country seat. It was not far from Auxerre ; and
thither he frequently retired, to indulge in the amuse-
ment of hunting. Hunting at all times has been a
favourite sport of the rich, and was then as popular
with the Romans as with the Goths, to whose nature
and habits it was especially congenial. ^ The duties of
his office, often obliged him to visit remote districts ;

' See Sidon. Apoll. Lett. 3. B. iii. Lett. 2. B. i. Lett. 9.
B. iv. Lett 21. B. iv. Lett. 8. B. v.


but he was at his native place, when an incident, appa-
rently trivial, connected with this same sport, was the
instrument in God's hands, of giving an entire change
to his life.

In the middle of the city, we are told, there was a
large pear tree, an object of reverence to the inhabi-
tants, both for its antiquity and its size. Ostentation
prompted German to bring the spoils of the chase to
the town, and hang them upon the favourite tree.
This relocated practice gave offence to Amator. Some
superstition was allied in the minds of the Pagans with
the sculls of the animals, which German exposed in
the public place, and which they called Oscilla. ^ The
Christian profession of German, ought not to allow him,
thought Amator, to foster the remains of heathenism,
which his own efforts had tended so much to extirpate.
It was an encouragement to the Pagans to continue
those practises expressly denounced in Holy Scripture :
" To sacrifice upon the tops of mountains, and bm-n
incense upon the hills, under oaks, and poplars, and
elms, because the shadow thereof is good.''' {Hosea
iv. 13.) He therefore presented himself before the civil
Governor, and addi-essed him thus : " Cease, I entreat
you, to indulge this empty jesting, for it is a stumbling
block to Christians, and a satisfaction to Heathens.
Such practices belong to the worship of idols, not to the
pure religion of Chi'ist." These admonitions, though
often repeated, were lost upon Gei-man. Nor was it
the power of an evil habit alone, which confirmed him
in his disobedience ; Amator knew he was ui'ged by a
foolish feeling of vanity and worldly honour ; he there-

' See Const. Vit. Germ. Tillemont. xv. t. p. 8. Canons of
St. Boniface.


fore desired liim to cut down the tree itself, which gave
occasion to the scandal ; but all was vain.

One day when German had retired to his country
place, Amator took his opportunity, and had the tree
cut down to the very roots and burnt. The sculls he
ordered to be cast away without the city. When the
Governor heard what he had done, he was filled with
wrath, and thinking his dignity exposed, as well as his
vanity offended, he so far forgot the nature of that
religion, to whose blessed sacraments and graces he had
been admitted,^ that he threatened death to the author
of the deed. During the heat of his indignation he
set off for Auxerre, accompanied by a large body of
men. He knew well that the inhabitants would rise up
with one accord to defend their holy Bishop. The
news of his intention however reached Amator before
his arrival. Upon hearing which he exclaimed : " No,
it is not possible that so unworthy a man as myself,
should bear witness with my blood to my Saviour."
Martyrdom indeed was not granted to him, though
none was more able to suffer all things for Christ. Far
otherwise did Almighty God dispose events. It was
revealed to the Bishop that his departure from this life
was at hand, but that the very man who persecuted
him would shortly succeed him in the See of Auxerre.
Instigated by this divine admonition, he did not wait
for German's arrival, but set off to JEdua or Augus-
todunum, now called Autun, to have an interview Avith
Julius the Prefect of Gaul,- who was then making a

' " Ritu atque munere insignitus." Const. Tillcmont, torn.
XV. p. 8.

- The Prefect of Gaul, in a public edict this year, 418, is
called Agricola, we must therefore either suppose him to have
been called by both names, as was common, or that one of the two


transitory sojourn in that city, his usual residence
being Aries.

St. Simplicius was then Bishop of Autun. Second
of the name, he was one of that bright cluster of holy
prelates which then adorned the land, and did justice,
says our authority, to his auspicious name by his
singleness of heart and childlike spirit. Hearing of
Amator's approach, he went out to meet him with his
clergy. The same respect was shown by the Prefect
Jidius, who, attended by a large suite, advanced to
welcome him. After they had exchanged the usual
salutations, Amator was led to the city with all the
demonstrations of reverence, wliich his character and
station commanded. Times have changed, and manners
with them, and though genuine holiness must ever call
forth the expression of the respect and love Avhich it
produces, yet the Saint does not meet with that recep-
tion now, which he did in the fifth century, — shall we
say even from barbarians. But to adhere closely to the
original testimony of these precious customs at the risk
of repetition ; the following day, Amator expressed his
wish to visit the Prefect at the Pretorium, as was
called the abode of the supreme magistrate. Where-
upon Julius hastened to meet him on his way, and with
all the indefinable tokens of one who could distinguish
the intrinsic dignity of the Christian priesthood, from
the mere outward honours it possessed, he first guided
the Bishop to Ms palace, and then humbly requested
his blessing. After Amator had blessed him, he thus
addressed him : " The Lord has informed me of my
approaching end, and as there is no one fit to undertake

had lately succeeded the other ; or again, that this Julius was not
Prefect of all Gaul, but Vicarius of Gaul. See the Boll, note
ad locum Constantii.


the superintendence of the Churfh Imt the most illus-
trious ' German, I desire your eminence to allow me to
confer the Tonsure on him. For such is the revela-
tion which the Lord my God has deigned to communi-
cate to me." The Prefect answered that German
was indeed useful and even necessary to the republic,
but since God had chosen him, he durst not oppose
His commands, and therefore gave his consent.

No change could be made in the administration of
Gaul without the Prefect's leave. Except the office
of the Vicarius, all public charges were dependent upon
his authority. German's was of this number, and he
could not quit his post without commission from the
supreme governor. This will explain what might seem
strange in Amator's conduct. To influence German's
mind and obtain his submission, he knew well wa.s
God's part ; the ordinary methods of conciliation and
intercourse were precluded by the hostile attempt just
made ; aU in that quarter must be God's doing. His
own depai'tment was to gain from the state what
belonged to the state, and to prepare those subordinate
means, without which, Providence does not interpose,
but which yet diminish not from the divine nature of
the interposition.

" My beloved sons, said Aniator, to a large concourse
of his own flock, whom he had assembled in the hall of
his house on his return to Auxerre, listen to me with
attention ; what I have to communicate to you is of
the utmost importance. By revelation from God I
have learnt that the day of my departure from this
world is at liand. I therefore exliort you all with one

* These epithets were not merely redundancies, as there was
much nicety of etiquette concerning the titles of the different
officers of State. See Gibbon, torn. iv.

ST. a:mator and st. german. 37

mind, carefully to inquire after the fittest person to
elect overseer of God's house." The multitude re-
mained silent, no one could speak for amazement. The
election of Bishops rested at that time very generally
in the hands of the people ;^ the whole burden indeed
usually devolved on the clergy, from the uncertainties of
popular suffrage ; still the privilege of electing belonged
to the former, and they were as zealous in asserting it,
as they were inefficient in exercising it. Amator, per-
ceiving the silence of the people, proceeded forthwith
to the Church. The multitude followed him. At the
entrance he stopped, and bid them lay down their
weapons and staves, adding, that they were about to
enter the house of prayer, not the camp of the god of
war. This was apparently directed to German and his
party, whose rage had had time to abate, and who urged
by the same feelings as the rest, had come to see the end
of this astonishing scene. Accordingly they laid aside
their arms, and entered the Church with the crowd.
Amator having watched the opportunity Avhen German
entered, immediately gave orders to the Porters,^
that is, the lowest members of the ecclesiastical order,
to shut the doors of the Church, and fasten them
closely. He then gathered the clergy round himself,
with those nobles who were present, and proceeding

1 Guizot France, Le9on iii See also Eusebius, Lib. vi. ch.

43. and Valesius, Note at the words, " vrso tuocyloslov x'kripov Kal

- In Latin Ostlarii. This was the last grade of the Clergy,
see Ducange ad voccm. Isidorus junior explains his functions
in this manner. " To the porter belong the keys of the Church,
in order that he may shut and open the temple of God, have the
custody of every thing within and without, admit the faithful,
and exclude the infidel and excommunicated."


straightway to Gorman, laid hold of him. Then he
solemnly invoked the name of God, cut off his hair,
stripped him of his secular robes, and clothed him in
the habit of an ecclesiastic.^ After this he ordained
him Priest, and addressed him thus : " Labour you
must, most beloved and revered brother, to preserve
immaculate and entire the dignity which has been com-
mitted to you ; know, that at my death God has willed
you should succeed to my office."

Scarcely had Amator retired from the Church, than
he began to feel the sjinptoms of his final sickness.
His zeal hoAvever continued the same. Though de-
bilitated by fever, he ceased not to preach to his people,
and perform the last duties of his office. One topic
was ever foremost in his discourse : the succession of
German to the Bishopi-ic on his death, which was
fast approaching. Unanimity in electing him he
strongly pressed upon them ; nor were the inclinations
of the multitude less desirous of the succession, as they
showed by answering w^ith one accord, " Amen." At
the same time tears rushed from their eyes, and grief
filled their hearts, at the prospect of the loss they were
to sustain. This, Amator endeavoured to alleviate by
the character he cbew of his successor, as revealed to
him by God. On Wednesday the 1st of May, 418, A. D.
he began to experience the agonies of death. In the

• It seems to be agreed, that the Tonsure was not quite the
same with that in the present Roman Church. A circle of hair
was left, say some, to grow round the lower part of the head.
St. Martin, by his opponents, was called " Hominem vultu despi-
cabilem, vcste sordidum, critic deformem." Sulp. Sex. ch. vii.
His editor refers to Concil. Tolet. iv. c. 40. and Isid. de Offi.
iv. 4. Bingham lays needless stress upon what small distinction
existed in different times.


midst of these he still continued to address words of
consolation to all arovind, and to mitigate the general
sorrow. " Surely, said he, these expressions of grief
are ill-suited to your condition ; you are about to obtain
a Bishop far better than me. What poor services I
may have been able to bestow, he will greatly surpass,
by contributing to your eternal advantage. I mean,
not only in life, but even in death he will remain the
blessing of your city." These words were understood
by the inhabitants of Auxerre in later times, to be pro-
phetic of the numerous miracles which were performed
at the tomb of St. German. Then Amator requested
he might be carried to the Church, intending to give up
his spirit in the place where he had so often by day and
by night, confessed the name of God. A great multi-
tude accompanied him ; the clergy advanced first, and
then followed the matrons. He had just time to be
taken up to his pontifical throne, (which, probably, like
in many Churches of the time, Avas placed at tlie extreme
end of what we should now call the Chancel,)^ before
he breathed his last, at the third hour of the day, that
is, about nine in the morning, according to our present
reckoning, the hour appointed for the chief office of the
Church, and that in which our blessed Lord is supposed
to have been crucified. At the sajne time, says Con-
stantius, our chief informer, a choir of Saints, to the
wonder of all, was seen to descend, and amid hymns and
praises, to carry up his spirit in the form of a dove to
lieaven. Many he adds, who had been present and lived
in his own time, were ready to bear witness to the fact.
Among these, says another writer before quoted, was
Helena, a holy virgin famous for her virtues and mira-

' See Bingham's plan after Eusebius's Description.


cles, whose feast occurs on the 22nd of May.^ His
body after it had been washed, was conveyed to the
same cemetery where Martlia had been buried, and
which was called, as we have seen, Mons Autricus or
Mont-Artre. A circumstance which occurred some
time after, contributed to render this spot still more
famous, though it was already noted for the blessed
remains it contained. But of this hereafter.

When the multitude who had accompanied the funeral
procession were returning, tliey were met by a paralytic
person borne on the shoulders of others. He had come
from the province of Berri, which is at some distance
from Auxerre, attracted by the fame of Amator's holi-
ness, and with some hope of being healed by him. His
infirmity had remained with him for thirty years. He
appears to have been a man in affluence. His atten-
dants, ignorant of the Bishop's death, inquired of the
multitude concerning him, and learnt the nature of the
procession they had seen. Thereupon the infirm man
entreated that he might be allowed tlie use of the water,
in which his body had been washed. German who had
not yet resigned his office of Governor, though he had
been ordained Priest,^ struck with their faith, gave
orders that tlie limbs of the paralytic man should be
washed with the water. The command had scarcely
been executed, when the sufferer recovered his strength
and soundness.

It is also said, but tlie autliority is less certain, that
as the funeral procession was passing by the public
gaol, the gates opened by miracle, the prisoners re-
gained their liberty and joined in the train.

' Stephanus Africanus. 22nd May. Boll.
- " Tunc Presbyter;" subsequently he is called Magistrate.


Bede,^ in his Martyrology, assigns tlie Gth of No-
vember, as the day of Amator's Deposition. Those of
Usuard and the Latin writers, says Tillemont,^ place
his feast on the 1st of May, the day on which his body
was solemnly translated, (and also apparently the day
of his decease.)

In 870, says Hericus,^ who lived at that time, his
remains were carried about, and the monks of St.
German's monastery went in procession to request a
relic of him. They obtained the fingers of the right
hand, with which he had cut off German's hair, and
carried them back to their own monastery, and depos-
ited them in German's tomb. This meeting of the
remains of two saints, so strangely connected with each
other in life, was signalized by the miraculous cure
of an infirm woman.

German Bishop.

After the death of Amator, there was but one voice
in favour of the election of German in his place. The
three distinct orders, the Clergy, Nobility, and People,
including those who resided in the neighbourhood, as
well as the inhabitants of Auxerre, joined in demanding
the performance of the Divine order so lately communi-
cated through Amator. But German could not bring
himself to accept an ofiice, for which he deemed he
had had so little preparation. By his former charge

' He says Augustoduno, but this is probably a mistake for

- Tillemont, t. xv. p. 11. = Vide Supra.


in the administration of tlie state, he had been thrown
into circumstances so very unfavourable to the exercise
of religious duties, that he needs must unlearn much
that he knew, over and above the acquirement of what
was indispensalde for the episcopal functions. "VMien
the empire was in the gift of armies or factions, and
tyrants were continually changing, involving often an
entire revolution in the government of the provinces ;
when court intrigues, and all the pernicious arts of
designing men, occupied the chief attention of the
officers of the republic, that conscientiousness and single-
ness of heart which German felt were necessary in an
ecclesiastical ruler, were exposed to dangers almost
unavoidable. He therefore determined to refuse the
election which he foresaw, and brought witli him a
party to support him. But all was in vain. He failed
in commanding the wonted submission of the people ;
and a regular opposition was raised against him, not
only by the mass of the people, ^ but by the nobles
also, and even the former abettors of his own cause.
Forced at last to accept the Bishopric, he soon showed
that he Avas more fit for the office than he had sup-
posed, and that the direction of Providence was signally
manifested in the circumstances of the event.

Vocations are not to be lightly esteemed, because
there may appear an insufficiency in the means to fulfil
them. Humanly speaking, nothing could be more unfit
for the conversion of nations, tlian the instrumentality
of the fisliermen of Galilee. But they were ordered
to take no thought about wliat they should say, that is,
not to shrink from their task, from ignorance of the
means of discharging it ; " For the Holy Ghost, it is
added, shall teach you all things." " It is impossible,
' BcUum civile indicitur potcstati. Const.'


says Tillemont,^ to conceive any thing more astonishing
than this vocation of St. German, so contrary, as it
should seem, to the rules of the Church. But when
He who is the Master of all rules speaks, it is our part
to worship Him, and receive His orders with humble
submission. It may be said that St. Britius, Avho at
that time governed the Church of Tours, was still
more unfit for the Bishopric than St. German, and
yet God called him by the mouth of the very St.
Martin, whom he had ottended when Deacon and Priest,
much more grievously than St. German had St.
Amator. God purified St. Britius, by dreadlul perse-
cutions, and St. German, by austerities unheard of in
Gaul, and which the power of grace alone can enable
to undergo. These, he concludes, are fully established
by the sincerity of Constantius his Biographer."

German's accession to the Bishopric of Auxerre,
may be assigned with tolerable certainty, to the 7th of
July 418, A. T), He was apparently elected, as dis-
tinguished from consecrated, immediately after St.
Amator's death, as we have just seen, and therefoi-e on
the 1st of May. About a month before, Amator had
first secured him to the ministry of the Church and
ordained him Priest, according to all probability, per
salturn, that is, without the preparatory degrees.^ But
the delays occasioned by his own diffidence, and the
necessity of getting three Bishops to attend at his con-
secration protracted the ceremony of his induction to
the month of July.

The reader may be desirous to know what were the
leading circumstances of the fortunes of the Roman

' Memoires Eccl. t. xv.
- See Bingh. 2 B. ii. ch. sec. 4, also Euseb. B. vi. 43.


Empire when this event took place. Honorius was
still Eraperor of the West. He had again recovered
the possession of Gaul through his able General, Con-
stantius. That country had been distressed by civil
war for many years. Maximus, ^ in 388, had given the
example of laying hold of the imperial crown without
any other title than ambition. The murder of Gratian,
the lawful Emperor, by which he had secured his
usurjiation, was punished however subsequently by
Theodosius the Great, who conquered him at Aquileia
and put liim to death. After him Eugenius, the crea-
ture of Arbozart, who durst not proclaim himself Em-
peror because he was not a Roman citizen, assumed the
purple in Gaul, and was likewise vanquished and be-
headed by Theodosius about 394. In the third place
shortly before the time which we are considering, Con-
stantine, a common soldier, who had been saluted Em-
peror in Britain, had passed over into Gaul, taken
possession of it, removed the imperial residence from
Treves to Aries, and had engaged successfully with
the barbarians, was at last subdued by the General of
Honorius and murdered on his road to Rome. Other
tyrants'^ succeeded him for a very short time in Gaul,
but Constantius soon put them down, and restored
the greater part of that country to Ilonoi'ius, the son
of Theodosius. Some provinces in the "West were
conceded to the Gothic king "Wallia
During these changes Rome had been taken and sacked

' See Anquetil, torn. i. and Annales Alfordii ad annos cjusdem
saeculi. Gibbon, torn. iv.

» Their character is described briefly by Sidonius in these
words, " In Constantino inconstantiam, in Jovino facilitatem,

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanLives of the English saints (Volume 2) → online text (page 14 of 33)