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in Gerontio perfidiam, singula in singulis, omnia in Dardano
crimina simui exsecrabantur." Ep. ix B. v. p. 32.


by Alaric, the king of the Goths. This year, 418, Zo-
zimus, the Pope, died, and was succeeded by Bonifacius.
Zozimus himself had succeeded to Innocent, a pontiff
remai'kable for his opposition to the growing heresy of
Pehigius. Two councils had been held in Innocent's
time, about 416, against Pelagianism, one at Carthage,
another at Milevum in Numidia, where St. Augustine
of Hippo presided. Innocent had ratified the decrees
of these councils, which had formally condemned the
authors of the heresy. These circumstances are con-
sidered by the defenders of the Papal prerogative as
decisive in favour of the claims of the Apostolic See ;
they occurred only two years before German's eleva-
tion. The next year Pelagius had made a public ab-
juration of his errors in a letter to Innocent, the con-
tents of which are the. best explanation of the dangers
with which his doctrines threatened the Church.^ Zo-
zimus, the next Pope, had been imposed upon by
Celestius, the companion of Pelagius, a circumstance
which some divines have exaggerated into an imputa-
tion of indulgence towards heresy, while Alford, a divine
of another school, maintains, with some reason, that Zo-
zimus proscribed the Pelagian heresy at the very same
time. His successor Bonifaciusj the same year 418,
engaged Honorius to write a public letter to the Pre-
torian Prefect, to extirpate Pelagianism and banish the
supporters of it for ever. The sentence was to extend
over all the empire. To add one more prominent fact
to this brief sketch, we may observe that St. Jerome
was still alive, as well as St. Augustine. St. Chrysos-
tom had died a few years before in banishment. The
writings of these three fathers, perhaps the most cele-

1 Vid. Apud Alford. Ad An. 417.


brated in history, were doubtless the study of the new
Bishop, next to the Holy Scriptures, which he appears
to have searched fortliwitli with the greatest diligence.
We have seen that wlien St. Amator ordained Ger-
man in the Church before all the people, he invested
him with the religious habit, as his Biographer calls it,
that is, the monastic dress. From this circumstance
some have thought that he became an actual monk. ^
But this seems to be a mistake. There was no monas-
tery then at Auxerre : St. German was the first to in-
stitute one at a future period. ^ Nor did he ever be-
come monk himself, though he continued to wear the
dress of that profession duiing the thirty years of his
Episcopate. This Avas no uncommon practice. St.
Martin, Bishop of Tours, had always worn the monas-
tic habit. But the office of Bishop was kept distinct
from the character of monk.^ By the outward ap-
pearance, a stranger might not discover whether a man
was an ecclesiastic, a monk, or a penitent, as is shown
by a question put by Sidonius Apollinaris to a friend.
But at this time the governors of the Church were
zealous in keeping the clerical body distinct from the
ccenobitic, the more so, as there was a growing ten-
dency in the Western Church to fill the ecclesiastical
ranks with men taken from monasteries at the expense
frequently of adequate preparation, and of the order
which distinguished the degrees. Hence in some sharp
letters of Zozimus and Celestine, the monks are em-
phatically denominated by the term of laymen, which

Among these, Alford, in his Annals.
- These points are satisfactorily explainetl in Boschius' Com-
ment. Prsev. ch. v. apud Bolland, 31 Jul.

' Lib. iv. Ep. xxiv. p. 404.


indeed was fully applicable to them before St, Bene-
dict's time.

The circumstances of German's elevation to the
Bishopric of Auxerre are so striking, and, together
with other instances somewhat similar, have given oc-
casion to such discordant opinions, that it may not be
out of place to compare one or two parallel accounts left
to us by contemporary writers. It is unquestionably
false to say with a modern writer, " that the election of
Bishops had not the characteristics of a real institution,
that it was destitute of rules, of permanent and leo-al
forms, and abandoned to the chance of circumstances
and passions." 1 It is perhaps nearer to the truth to
say, that there existed a real standard of order, and a
received body of apostolical canons, but that they were
not as yet considered invariably obligatory, and were
in some particulars often dispensed Avith in emero-en-
cies.2 The history of St. Ambrose is well known.
After the death of Auxentius, the Ai'ian Bishop of
Milan, the people, the Clergy, and the Bishops of the
Province, had met in the cathedral to elect a successor.
The confusion was very great, and the divisions of the
Orthodox and the Arians impeded the decision. A
violent tumult ensued, when Ambrose, the civil gover-
nor of Milan, arrived. He was not much above thirty
years old. Having learnt the cause of the disturbance,
he entered the cathedral, and addressed the people in
order to pacify them. His appearance and manner
pleased the multitude, and it is reported that a child
screamed out in the Church, "Ambrose is Bishop."

' Guizot France, torn. i. Le9on 3.
- See Hallier. De Sacris electionibus et ordinationibus. P.
ii. S. i. Ch. i.


The meeting was not dissolved before Ambrose was
proclaimed Bishop with one consent. ^ Wliat renders
this election still more extraordinary than that of Ger-
man is, that Ambrose was not yet a Christian, but only
a Catechumen. He was then baptized, and eight days
after consecrated.

Ambrose's election took place about fifty years before
that of German. Sidonius ApoUinaris relates a similar
example which occurred about fifty years after. The
Bishop of Bourges, in France, was dead, and the ardour
of competitors and factions was so great, that the whole
town was thrown into confusion. ^ Thereupon Sido-
nius, lately made Bishop himself of Clermont in
Auvergne, and distinguished for his birth, wealth, elo-
quence and science, was requested by the inhabitants
of Bourges to repair to their city to make choice
of a successor for them. Sidonius took with him
some other Bishops, and proceeded to Bourges. Hav-
ing assembled the people and clergy, he pronounced a
discourse to them in which he reviewed those classes of
persons against whom objections might be raised. " A
monk, he said, will be considered unequal to fulfil the
double part of intercessor with God and civil magis-
trate ; and there are not wanting many among the
people and clergy who entertain invidious prejudices
against the Avliole order. Again, if I choose fi'om the
clergy, immediately jealousy and contempt will be ex-
cited. Should I decide for one invested with military
offices and honours, what accusations of partiality to a
profession through which I have myself passed !" He

' Sec Church of the Fathers. Hallier, P. ii. S. i. Ch. i.
St. Paulin. Vita Ambrosii.

- Sid. Ap. B. vii. Lett. ix.


then proceeded to give the description of the person he
tliought fit to succeed to the Bishopric. He was a lay-
man, he was even a soldier, he was married and had off-
spring ; but then he was a zealous friend of the Church,
the defender of her rights, and he had built a temple to
God at his own expense ; he was moreover of noble
birth, in affluence, kind, charitable, mature in age and
mind, and especially too modest to desire the sacred
dignity, a circumstance Avhicli made him the more de-
serving. Such was Simplicius, who forthwith was
consecrated Bishop of Bourges and Metropolitan of the
Province. ^

Many other instances similar to these might be
quoted, to show that German's election was not a soli-
tary example. But after all, they were mere excep-
tions and irregularities, and indicative of that spirit of
toleration and expansion with which the Chui'ch suf-
fered deviations from her canons in cases of necessity.
As well might it be said that there is no established
form for Baptism, because in extreme emergencies the
ministry of a layman is allowed to supply that of a cler-
gyman, as that these exceptions prove the want of
canonical rules in the ordinations of ecclesiastics. Dif-
ferent churches might have different customs on minor
points, but in all essentials the consent was uniform in
Christendom. It was embodied in what Pope Celestine
calls the Decrees of the Fathers (Decreta Patrum,) and
was appealed to as the Ecclesiastical Custom. ^^

Modern philosophy does not appear to have exercised
all its ingenuity as yet upon the period which we are
considering, otherwise we might expect some clever

' See other parallel cases in Guizot's France. Le9on 3.

- Ep. ii. § 3. apud Labb. Concil. torn. iii. p. 482.



theory to prove tliat a transition like that of German
from a liigh civil magistrac}^ to a clerical office, was
the effect, not of divine intervention, or of any desire
to promote the welfare of the Church, but of mere fear
and the pressure of worldly circumstances. Constau-
tine the tyrant would be cited to show that the easiest
way to escape the vengeance of enemies was to assume
the clerical coat. ^ The Avords of Sidonius, who in the
perils of civil war observed that the nobility had resolved
to seek their safety in the ecclesiastical state or in ban-
ishment, would be appealed to with confidence. And
among those Avhom in fact fear and policy had driven
into the clergy, the illustrious saints whose examples
edified the whole Church, would be indiscriminately
ranked. Attempts of tins kind have been made to rob
the City of God in patriarchal times of her blessed
succession of witnesses. Nor Avould it be more extra-
ordinary if the transition of German were attributed
to the growing ascendancy of the barbarians, the
changeableness of Court intrigues, or the worldly ad-
vantage to be derived from a station which engaged
the esteem of the people while the civil authorities
daily lost their influence. However the subsequent
life of Gei-man is a sufficient answer to such intima-
tions, were they made, as we shall see in the following

' Vid. Annals Alford, ad Annum, 410-11.

gerjl^n's character, etc. 51


German's character and mode of Life.

It is difficult to conceive any thing more surprising
and sudden than tlie change wliich took phice in Ger-
man. St. Paul, whose conversion is the type of won-
derful changes, yet was earnest, ascetic, strict from the
very first. ^ He had always lived according to the
straightest sect of his religion a Phai'isee. But German
had been surrounded with the luxury and comforts of
the world, courted by all, accustomed to command not
to serve, and lulled in the arms of domestic happiness.
Like Jonah he might have " made himself a booth and
sat under it in the shadow to see what would become
of the city" of God. Instead of this, he at once girded
up his loins and prepared to take an active part in the
spiritual warfare of the ChmTh. Let us attend to the
account given by Constantius, his biographer. He im-
mediately resigned his civil appointment, dismissed liis
numerous attendants, sacrificed the splendid and plea-
sant possessions of his wealth, gave away his substance
to the poor, and enlisted himself in their company.
His wife Eustachia became his sister. It is uncertain
whether she continued to dwell under the same roof,
or retii-ed to a i-eligious house. The circumstances of
his future life seem to imply the latter, for he travelled
much, and her presence on those occasions is not no-

^ srpof TOOTutswfTjy tctv /M.eXXov'Jwv triiTTcUEiv. 1 Tim. i. 16.

52 German's character

ticed, nay, must have ])een noticed in some, liad she
kept him company. However there was notliinfr to
share with him. His table Avas seldom spread for him-
self, his days were employed in the duties of his office,
his nights were spent in prayer and meditation. ^

With regard to his austerities, much of course was
concealed from the pu1)lic gaze, as is remarked of our
own George Herbert ; but though he ever strove to
avoid observation, yet as a city built on a hill cannot
remain hid, so the brightness of his sanctity shone
througli all reserve, and spread a glow over his least
actions. What was ascertained may be briefly summed
up as follows : From the day on which he began his
ministry to the end of his life, that is, for the space of
thirty years, he was so spare in his diet, that he never
eat wheaten bread, never touched wine, vinegar, oil or
vegetables, nor ever made use of salt to season his food.
On the nativity and resurrection of our Lord alone he
allowed himself one draught of wine diluted with water,
so as to preserve little of its flavour. Meat was out of
the question ; he lived more rigorously than any monk,
and in those early times no meat was allowed to monks
in France, except in the most urgent cases of debility
and sickness.^ What he did take was mere barley
bread which he had winnowed and ground himself.
First however he took some ashes, and, by way of hu-
miliation, tasted them. Severe as was this diet, it ap-
pears almost miraculous when we are told that he never
eat at all but twice a week, on Wednesdays and Satur-

• " Vitabat suorum Solatia." Const, again " Convivium
jejunus pastor exhibuit."

= See Calmet, Regie de St. Benoit. torn. i. 564.


days, and in the evening of those days ; nay that gene-
rally he abstained entirely till the seventh day. ^

His clothing was the same in winter and in summer,
simply the cucuUa and the tunic. What these were in
the tilth century we learn from Cassian, a contemporary
writer. ^ The cucuUa, he says, was a small hood for the
head, ending in point and falling down over the neck
as far as the shoulders. In process of time this di-ess
changed very considerably. The tU7iic was a mere
shirt, which the ancients wore next to the skin and
generally without sleeves. Cassian describes the monks
with linen tunics, which he calls colobia, the sleeves of
which descended only to the elbow. But he is de-
scribing the monastic habit of the Egyjjtians, and it is
probable that when the same pattern was adopted from
them in Gaul, the tunic was made of wool or coarse
stuff. It covered the whole body and reached to the
feet. Under this however German wore the badge of
the religious profession, the hair-cloth, (cilicimn) which
never left him. He seldom bought a new dress, but

' That this is the true sense of the passage is proved by an-
other of the same author Constantius. B. ii. ch. 66. " Cujus
inediam septimus plerumque dies pane tantum hordeaceo re-
creabat." See Bosch. Boll, ad locum Const.

- " Cucullis perparvis usque ad cervicis humerorumque de-
missis confinia, quibus tantum capita contegant, indesinenter
utuntur diebus ac noctibus." Quoted by Camlet, Regie de St.
Benoit, ch. iv. torn. ii.

" Colobiis lineis induti quse vix ad cubitorum ima pertingunt,
nudas de reliquo circumferunt manus." Ibid.

Cassian travelled into Egypt, and founded afterwards a mo-
nastic house at Marseilles, after the model of Egypt. On the
subject of the Egyptian monks, see the abstract of Fleury, torn.
V. Liv. 20. p. 20, &c. See also Liv. 24. p. 600, &c. See also
Heliot, torn. i. p. 163.

54 ger3ian's character

wore the old till it was nearly in rags, unless perchance
he i^arted with it for some person in distress whom he
had no other means of relieving.

His bed was even more uninviting than his dress.
Four planks, in the form of an oblong, contained a bed
of ashes, which they prevented from being dispersed.
By the continual pressure of the body they had become
hai'd, and presented a surface as rough as stone. On
this he lay with his hair-cloth alone, and another coarse
cloth for a coverlet. ^ No pillow suppoited his head, his
whole body lay flat on the painful couch. He did not
take off his garment to sleep, and seldom even loosened
the girdle or took off his shoes. Neither did he ever
part witli a leathern belt which fastened to his chest
a little box containing the relics of the saints. This,
his only treasure, he valued above all earthly things.
The relics were those of all the Apostles and of different
Martyrs. At a subsequent period he took some from
them to deposit in the tomb of St. Alban, at Verulam,
in Britain ; and it was this little box which the Em-
press Placidia so eagerly desired when German died at
Ravenna. His sleep was such as might be expected
from these austerities ; it was neither long, nor unin-

' " Sagulum." See Calmet, torn. ii. p. 268. Also Bosch.
Boll. Not. ad § 75. " Sagulum ego indnmontum hie intelligi
nullum existimo sad lodicem sen stragulum qua noctu obtectus

As there appears a slight inconsistency as the text of Con-
stantius stands, viz. : " Stratum omne, subjccto cilicio, et super-
posito uno tantum sagulo, fuit — Noctibus nunquam vcstitum,
raro cingulum, raro calceamciita detraxit ;" we might almost
suspect cilicio had been written for silice, alluding to the hard
ashes. Lipoman, Surius, the Bollandists have however all


terrupted. Frequently after tlie example of our Lord
he would pass the whole night in prayer ; and it should
seem that .these holy vigils had a peculiar efficacy in
his case, which manifested itself in the following morn-
ings by miracles and extraordinary deeds. These mid-
night watchings were divided between the tears and
groans of penitence and hjonns of praise and interces-
sions. In this manner, says his biographer, as we have
before remarked, did the blessed German expiate any
past errors into which human infirmity may have led
him, and set the example of a sudden and transcendent

According to the Apostolic precept he was " given
to hospitality." His house was open to every one and
he paid no regard to the quality of the visitor. Faithful
to the lesson taught by our Lord Himself, he washed
the feet of his guests with his own hands and then pre-
pared a feast which all partook of but the ascetic Ger-
man. It is often said at the present day that there is
cowai'dice and want of faith in retiring from the world
to avoid temptation, and that to bury religion in mo-
nastic seclusion is to perform but one part of the
Christian Law which commands vis to love our neigh-
bours as ourselves. Here then German might obtain
the approbation of modern objectors. He did not leave
the world as far as outward things are concerned. His
whole Episcopate was passed amid the tumult and con-
course of men, with the exception of those hours he
spent among the Brotherhood he instituted, as we shall
see. He would fail however in satisfying them, in that
he encouraged monastic retirement in others. Kor was
it by contenting himself with smaller measures of strict-
ness than a religious rule enforced, that he preserved
his conscience spotless in the busy scenes of the world.


He lived like St. Antliony and St. Athanasius at the
same time.

No distinct account has been left us of the personal
appearance of German. All we know is that when his
body was removed in the ninth century it was observed
that he was of middle stature, and that he had a fine
head of hair interspersed with white hairs. ^ In this
form we are told he also appeared to a little girl whom
he cured of dumbness after his death. As a general
remark it may be said that his features were rendered
squalid and emaciated by the severe fasts he endured, ^
while at the same time his countenance possessed a dig-
nity which commanded universal respect.^ Dugdale
informs us that in St. German's Priory in Cornwall
there was a mutilated impression from the Seal of this
monastery. The inscription was gone, but the area on
one side represented a few feint traces of the figure of
the Saint.

If it may be permitted to assign human reasons, where
so much was superhuman, we should say German was
naturally a healthy person and possessed a robust con-
stitution. Other Saints, by austerities less great than
his, were rendered infirm for life. St. Bernard never
quite recovered from the effects of his early severities.*
Forced to be carried about in a carriage, he was subject
to temporary weaknesses whicli greatly impeded his ex-
ertions. St. Basil^ again and St. Chrysostom lost the
health of their body while the soul seemed to gather

' Hericus de Miraculis, C. v. B. i.

Constantius, C. ii. B. ix. apud Surium.

' Ibid. Ch. xxxiii.

•• Neander's Life of St. Bernard.

' Church of the Fathers, p. 114 and 71.


fresh vigour for heavenly things.^ " I cannot number,
says the former, the various affections which have be-
fallen me, my weakness, the violence of the fever and
the bad state of my constitution." German was not
apparently subject to this trial. The only sickness we
find he endured previous to his last iUness was a tem-
porary lameness, produced by a fall, when he sojourned
in Britain. Like St. Martin of Tours, he could under-
take long expeditions, and mix in the stir and noise of
the crowd without inconvenience. All blessings are
from God. Daniel was " fairer and fatter in flesh"
than all the children which did eat the portion of the
king's meat, though he lived on pulse. ^ Perhaps Ger-
man had not those particular inclinations and habits
which needed the humiliation of bodily suffering. The
pride of learning, intellect and wisdom, seem to have
been checked often by these visitations. St. Paul had
a thorn in the flesh, lest he should be too much exalted.
St. Basil thought he owed much to some such affliction,
in being weaned from the seductive philosophy of
Athens. ^ German was probably free from these allure-
ments. He became profoundly learned in sacred sci-
ence, insomuch, that St. Patrick, the apostle of Ii-e-
land, esteemed him the best guide for his own early
studies, of all the teachers of Gaul. Yet he was igno-
rant of that passionate love for learning as such which
seems to have devoured the minds of Origen and others.
It is to be regretted, together Avith the absence of any
external description, that we have no definite account
of his particular natural disposition, or of his acquire-
ments. It is certainly interesting, if it is not instruc-

■ Fleury, Lib. 21, p. 161. - Daniel i. 15.

* Serm. " De Libris Gentilium Leerendis."

58 German's character

tive, to learn wliat cliaracteristics of" a more earthly
kind Avere combined with the heavenly virtues of Saints.
And the observation is often made, that their example
has more hold upon the imagination of the weaker
brethren than that of our blessed Lord, for the reason,
that they were liable to infirmity, and had tastes and
feelings Avhich showed them to be mere men. The
want of such description, is perhaps to be attributed to
the fact, that his biographer Avas not personally ac-
quainted with him. He had certain means indeed of
obtaining minute information, whether from the monks
of Auxerre, who had continual opportunity of seeing
him and conversing with him, or from those Bishops
and men of education who attended him in his last days
almost without intermission. But his account is a mere
sketch ; and wluit seems important to one writer does
not to another ; nay, different subjects of consideration
occupy different generations ; at one time miracles, at
another original characters. Then again, the style of
Constantius is poetical, not philosophical, and style is
indicative of the train of men's thoughts.

However, thus much appears. From the time of his
ordination, he applied diligently to the study of the
scriptures, and became so versed in theological matters,
that he was considered among the Doctors of the time.
St. Patrick spent many years under his tuition. ^ The
learned supj^ose him to have committed to writing some
of the fruits of his stutlies. But nothing has remained.
His natural eloquence, his learning and practical wis-
dom, would mark him out as the fittest person to en-
counter the Pelagians in Britain, even in a synod of

' This is well authenticated from Probus, Jocelin, Hericus
and others. See Stillingflect Orig. p. 211. Ed. 8vo.


prelates, Aviiere so many were eminent for talent as well
as piety. The event proved the justness of their
choice. " His own arguments, we are told, Avere in-
terspersed with revealed truth, and Avhile he poured
forth in torrents of eloquence the dictates of his con-
science, he supported them always with the agreement

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