John Henry Newman.

Lives of the English saints (Volume 2) online

. (page 29 of 33)
Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanLives of the English saints (Volume 2) → online text (page 29 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

habitu illud omnibus ostendit, se boni illius ac magni Pastoris
imitatorem esse, qui gregis infirmitates sibi ferendas proposuit."

It will be remarked, that a contrary opinion has here been
•idraitted to that which is given in Mr. Palmer's Orig. Lib. vol.
ii. p. 322.


of the Archbishop perhaps being more entire, the sub-
ordinate clergy having a kind of wreath of hair just
above the temples and round by the ears. In this
manner would St, Lazarus proceed to celebrate the
Mass. He was now at the Altar with his Bishops and
Clergy in the middle of the Sacred mysteries, when
German, unknown and unexpected, entered the Cathe-
di'al. Immediately one of the people who was possessed
with an evil spirit screamed out distinctly : " Why
dost thou, German, persecute us even into Italy ? Let it
suffice thee to have banished us from Gaul, and over-
come both us and the waves of the ocean by thy
prayers. Why art thou found every where ? Be still,
that we also may be in peace." The Church was full
of people. Every one turned round with surprise and
fear. Each asked his neighbour who German might
be. The dress of the traveller was so humble that he
might have been overlooked, had not the dignity of his
countenance attracted the attention of all. Upon being
questioned, he declared who he was. By this time the
Bishop of Milan and his assistants had come down
from the Bema and Altar ; and signified their profound
respect for the Saint of God. They entreated him to
heal the madman who had declared his arrival. Then
German took him apart into the Sacristy, a place ad-
joining the Church, where the sacred vessels were kept
and the clergy changed their vestments. ^ German
there released the afflicted man, and brought him back
sound to the multitude who filled the Cathedi*al. This
miracle was followed by others ; many came to be
cured of their diseases, and returned in health. Crowds
flocked to receive his blessing, and hear him preach.

' Ducange ad voc. Secrariura.



St. German at Ravenna.

Geejiax soon left j\Elan, and proceeded towards Ra-
venna. He had not gone far when he was met by
some beggars, who requested an akas. Having en-
quired of a Deacon who attended him, how much there
was in the bag, he was told, tlu-ee pieces of gold.
" Give them all," he said. The Deacon surprised,
asked what they themselves were to live upon. " God,"
said he, " will feed his own poor ; do thou give what
thou hast." The Deacon to be prudent gave away two
pieces, and secretly reserved one. As they advanced
in the direction of the river Po, they Avere overtaken
by some men on horseback, who dismounting and fall-
ing on their knees, informed him that their master
Leporius, a man in high authority, ^ who lived not far
off, was ill with all his family of a fever ; they entreated
him to repair tliither, or if this were impossible, to pray
for Leporius at a distance. But German consented to go
out of his way, and came to the residence of the noble-
man, notwithstanding the objections urged by his atten-
dants. The men who had desired his aid, immediately of-
fered the present of two hundred pieces of gold wliich
had been sent by them. Then he turned to the Dea-
con and said : " Take this offering, and consider that
thou hast defrauded God's own poor ; for if thou hadst
given to the beggars the three pieces as I charged thee,

' Vir spectabilis.


we should now have received tlii-ee hundred pieces
instead of two hundred." His companion blushed to
tliink his secret actions should thus have been dis-

They then hastened to Leporius, who was highly
pleased to see German. Upon entering, the latter fell
down in prayer, and forthwith healed the nobleman
and all his family. Then he visited the cottages in the
neighbourhood where the epidemic raged, and cured
every one. This miracle took place not far from
]Milan, at the village of Niguarda,^ where a Church
dedicated to St. German is said still to bear witness to
his visit. This had necessarily caused considerable
delay, and it was not before the third day that he was
able to set out again, accomjianied a short way by Le-
porius liimself.

In the mean time, fame had given notice of his
progress at Ravenna, where he was expected with great
anxiety. Like Sidonius Apollinaris, on a similar ex-
pedition, nineteen years after, he would descend into
the plains of the Po, following, however, the course of
the yellow Lambro, instead of the Tessin, to Placentia,
a town he was afterwards to revisit under very different
circumstances. Then embarking on the post-barges
of the Po, ^ he woidd pass by the conflux of the blue
Adda, the swift Adige, the sluggish Mincio, which
take their sources in the Ligurian and Euganean moun-
tains ; his eyes would be refreshed by the shades of
the groves of oaks and maple trees which crown their

' Bosch, not ad locum Const.
■^ '• Cursoriam sic navigio nomen." Sid. Apoll. Ep. v. lib. i.
" Celoces et holcadas, quibus excursum per alveum Padi facie-
bant." Cassiodorus apud Notas in Sid. Apoll. Sirmond.


banks, where the sweet concert of birds issued at the
same time from the rushes and reeds of their bed, and
the thickets and bushes which so closely line the way.
He would, like Sidonius, pass under the walls of Cre-
mona, and perhaps remember Virgil's verses ; then
behold at a little distance, the scene of Otho's single
act of heroism, the memorable town of BrixiUum,
and at last arrive by one of the many mouths of the
Po, in sight of Ravenna.

Ravenna, we are told, was not originally a Roman
colony, but a municipal town, ^ to which the Romans
granted the right of govei'ning itself by its own laws,
the privilege of having the same offices and dignities
as the Roman people, and exemption from all kind of
tribute. Here was the residence of the Praitor. The
assemblies of the provinces were held in it, and a large
fleet filled the fine harbour. Of late, the Roman Em-
perors had been much attached to this town, which
always remained faithful. Honorius and Valentinian
in. had fixed theii* abode here, and built palaces. In
subsequent times, Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths,
made it the centre of his new kingdom ; and tiU the
middle of the eighth century, Ravenna was considered
the capital of Italy and the seat of government. The
palace and sepulchre of Theodoric may still be seen.*
"At Ravenna," says Sidonius, ^ "you might be per-
plexed to know whether the great imperial street which
traverses it, connects or separates tlie old city from the
new harbour. Two branches of the Po circulate
through the to^vn and divide it. This river, which

' See Not. in Sid. Ap. ed. Lyons, 1836.

- Gibbon, torn. iv. p. 28. Knight's Eccles. Architect

3 Sid. Apoil. Epist. 5. b. i.


was drawn off from the principal stream by artificial
means, has been divided into vaiious channels, which
flow round the walls of the city and defend it from
external attack, and again penetrate into the interior,
for the advantage of commerce. Every thing here is
in favom* of traffic ; provisions are in abimdance. Yet
when the salt waters of the sea enter by the flood-gates
on one side, and on the other the miry waters of the
canals are agitated by the many boats wliich pass to
and fro, and the mud is dug up by the poles of the
sailors who steer their way : even in the middle of water
we were tliirsty ; in truth, nowhere is the aqueduct
itself quite limpid, nor the cistern without impurities ;
much less is there a fresh source or a clean well."
This, of com'se, is in some measure a partial description
of the majestic Ravenna ; and a more complete idea
may be obtained from Gibbon ;^ yet it well represents
the great feature of the place, intersected as it was with
canals, and surrounded by extensive marshes and the sea.
German had managed to arrive there by night, to
avoid publicity ; yet the people were on the look-out
for him, and he did not enter imobserved. The chief
men of the town came out to meet him, with num-
bers of all rank and age. Among these was St.
Peter, Archbishop of Eavenna, surnamed Chrysolo-
gus, from his eloquence, and well known in the
Chm'ch. Of him it is that the following interesting
anecdote has been preserved in the Breviary Service
for his Festival, the 4th of December. " In liis ser-
mons addressed to the people, his language was often
so energetic, that the vehemence of his exertions some-
times caused his voice to fail all at once. This hap-

1 Tom. iv. p. 27.


pened on the occasion of his Discourse upon the
Woman that had the issue of blood. The inhabitants
of Ravenna, seeing the impediment which liad sud-
denly come upon him, moved with sympathy, tilled the
place with such earnest lamentations and prayers to
God, that afterwards he returned thanks to God that
the injury which his voice and discourse had received
had been turned to such a demonstration of love."
The Roman Breviary has besides, several Lessons, taken
from his writings, for the Festivals of other Saints,
as many are aware. Of him it was also said, that he
literally governed his Church according to the Apostolic
precepts.^ His life in the Episcopate was similar to
that which he had led before his elevation ; for he had
been a monk. He was, moreover, in high favour with
the Emperor and Empress. Six other Bishops were
likewise in the suite of German, but their names are
not given. It would require no great stretch of imagi-
nation to seek for the great St. Leo the Pope among
them. He was a personal friend of St. Peter Chryso-
logus, and much in request at the Court of Ravenna,
which he had often served in emergencies. But as
Constantius is silent, it is more probable they were
suffragan Bishops of St. Peter, ^ one of whom might be
Cornelius, Bishop of Imola, an intimate friend of
Chrysologus, to whose elevation he had been instru-

As soon as German was known to have arrived, the
Empress Placidia sent a valuable vessel of silver to

' Constantius § 70. Bolland. Tillemont, torn. xv. Ughellus,
torn. ii. p. 332.

- There were ten Suffragans of Ravenna.
•' See Ughellus, torn. ii. p. 332. ed. 1647.


him, filled with delicate provisions, without any mix-
ture of flesh. Having accepted the present, he deliv-
ered the contents to his followers and his clerical at-
tendants, and begged leave to sell the silver vessel for
the sake of the poor. As a return to the Empress, he
sent her a little wooden dish, containing some barley
bread. Placidia was greatly pleased with the action
of German, and received with deep reverence the hum-
ble platter and food of the Saint. Afterwards, she
caused the wooden dish to be chased in gold, and pre-
served the bread, which became afterAvards the means
of many miraculous cures. ^

Galla Placidia was mother of the Emperor Valen-
tinian III., and sister of the late Emperor Honorius.
Three females were at this time at the head of the govern-
ment in the Western and Eastern Empires. Pulcheria
and Eudocia, the sister and wife of the young Theodosius,
reigned supreme at Constantinople. Placidia, taught
by a life of adventures and troubles, directed the affairs
of the West. Her son, Valentinian, had been on the
throne since 425, that is, twenty-three years. Grand-
son of the Great Theodosius, he did not prove that
the talent which misses one generation returns in the
next. " His long minority," says Gibbon, " was en-
trusted to the guardian care of a mother, who might
assert a female claim to the succession of the Western
Empire — Placidia ; but she could not equal the reputa-
tion and virtues of the wife and sister of Theodosius
(the younger), the elegant genius of Eudocia, the wise
and successful policy of Pulcheria. The mother of
Valentinian was jealous of the power which she was
incapable of exercising ; she reigned twenty -five years
in the name of her son ; and the character of that un-

' So Tillemont renders the passage. Art. de St. Germain.



worthy Emperor gradually countenanced the suspicion
that Placidia had enervated his youth by a dissolute
education, and studiously diverted his attention from
every manly and honourable pursuit." This portrait
is here given, chiefly as indicating a subject for candid
enquiry, should a mind more congenial to Christian
and Catholic development than that of Gibbon, be
turned to the study of the ambiguous characters of
Placidia and Valentinian. Constantius, whose friend,
Sidonius Apollinaris, was acquainted with the Court
of Ravenna as well as any of his age, positively affirms
that Placidia and Valentinian were both zealous for
the Catholic ftxith, and though so high in tlie world,
were ever known to lower themselves for the honour
of God's servants. On the occasion we are now inte-
rested in, it is certain they were foremost in showing
the greatest respect to German ; nor could it be said
that Ambrose, when sueing for a guilty province at the
Court of Theodosius the Great, had met with more
deference and considerateness than now was evinced
by the grand-son of that prince to the advocate of the

Some short time, it appears, elapsed before he found
a favom-ablc opportunity of laying the cause of this peo-
ple before Valentinian, One day as he was walking in
one of the broadest streets sm-rounded by a nimiber of per-
sons, he passed by the gates of the prison, then filled with
many who had been doomed to die or suffer some severe
penalty. Hearing that German was passing by, they all
at once raised a loud cry. He enquired the cause, and
called for the door-keepers, who had concealed them-
selves, and learnt from them that the dissensions of the
contending factions at court had occasioned a recent im-
portation of these unhappy victims into the state prisons.


Those who are acquainted with the history of this pe-
riod, will be able to understand how many acts of ty-
ranny were then executed in the imperial name, thouo-h
in fact they emanated from subordinate ministers and of-
ficers. When German saw that it was useless to seek
for mercy elsewhere, be had recourse to that Divine
aid which had so often been present with him. He
advanced towards the prison and fell down in prayer.
It was not long before its efficacy was manifested. The
bars and bolts of the gates were suddenly loosened, and
a number of prisoners came forth with tlieir chains un-
fastened, which they held up to the view of the multi-
tude. Prisons are made for the lawless, and for the
protection of justice and peace ; in this case, says Con-
stantius, law seemed to be justified in the violation of
its securities. The released men then, together with
German and the whole multitude, proceeded to the
Church to return thanks.

The fame of his miracles daily spread ; people came
from all sides. The sick and infirm were healed. It
seemed that the gift of Christ obtained more virtue as
German was draAving to the close of his life. The
seven Bishops before mentioned, among whom was St.
Peter Chrysologus, hardly ever left his side. They
were alike filled with astonishment at the incessant
mortifications he practised, and the wonderful miracles
he performed. And their testimony, which is of the
highest character, as Constantius expressly declares, is
corroborative of the evidence for his miracles which
are proved from so many other sources. ^

There was a man about the court who acted as chief
secretary to the Patrician Segisvultus.^ He had a sou

' " Hi testes operum illius multis temporibus fuere."
- " Qui turn patritii Segisvulti caiicellis prseerat."


that was dying of a low fever. The physicians had
given him over, and his parents were in the utmost
affliction. At last they bethought themselves of seekinor
help from the Bishop of Auxerre. Their son could
scarcely be said to live. They came with their rela-
tions and friends and humbly implored his assistance.
The Bishops, his companions, joined in the request.
He then hastened to visit the dying youth. While
they were going, a messenger came to say that the son
of Yolusianus (for so the Secretary was called) was
dead, and that there was no longer any need of
troubling the holy man. The other Bishops, how-
ever, would not let him stop, but earnestly bid him
perfect the work of mercy. They found the body life-
less ; the heat of nature had gone, the corpse was cold
as stone. They then offered up a prayer for the rest
of his soul,^ and were on the point of returning, when
the by-standers began to weep and bewail bitterly. The
Bishops then entreated him to pray the Lord in behalf
of the bereaved parents, for the restoration of the
youth. He hesitated long ; if we except the uncertain
miracle performed in the company of St. Anian, near
Orleans, this was the first call upon his power for rais-
ing a dead man. Such a deed had scarcely been known
in ecclesiastical history. However, we are told, his
feelings of compassion and charity, combined with that
confidence which so long a life of faith produced, urged
him to make the trial. Pie removed the crowd, as when
his Master had raised the daughter of Jairus ; then like
Elijah and Elisha, he knelt down over the corpse. His
tears fell in abundance, and he called instantly upon
the name of Christ. In the meantime, the dead youth
began to move, and by degrees the limbs recovered

' Depositaque pro aniniae requic orationc."


their animation. The eyes sought the light, the fingers
began to bend, the tongue to falter. Then German
arose from prayer, and raised up the youth, Avho like
Lazarus might be said " to have slept but not unto
death." He sat up, drew his breath, stretched himself,
looked around. At last his whole strength returned.
Great was the joy of his parents, loud were the accla-
mations of the people. The end of German was near
at hand ; this miracle was a kind of type of the glory
which was soon to be given to him.

There was yet another about the court who had rea-
son to be grateful to him. This was a pupil of the
Eunuch Acholius"^ who held the chief office of
Chamberlain. He had brought up the young man
with great care, and imbued him with a love for
letters. An evil spirit however crushed his ener-
gies ; every month at the moon's full, he was seized
with what is called the falling sickness, of which there
is frequent mention in ancient history. ^ Ca?sar, ac-
cording to Plutarch, was subject to it ; and there have
been some who thought St. Paul was liable to it.^ All
the authority of the imperial household was used to ob-
tain German's helii. Accordingly when he had exam-
ined the young man, contraiy to his practice, (for he
was wont to expel the most furious spirits by simple
imposition of hands), he deferred purifying him to ano-
ther day. The malign influence had made the unfor-
tunate young man a very receptacle, as it Avere, of
Satan's operations. German desired he might be left

» Or Scolius. Bodl. MS. In this MS. here follows a story
referred by Bosch, to Hericus's Works. It is also found in the
Codex Chifflet., but in a different place. It is here omitted as
unimportant and uncertain.

- " Caduca allisione prosternit."
3 Bishop Bull. Serm.


alone with liim for the niglit. In tlie same night the evil
spirit came out of him, wallowing and confessing that
it had dwelt in him since his earliest years. The young
man thus restored to health, soon returned to his sta-
tion in the palace.

The time was come when he deemed it seasonable to .
explain the object of his journey. His negotiations with
the Emperor and Empress proved successful ; and he
might have carried home their pardon to the Armori-
cans, with terms of peace. But while he was interced-
ing for them, the news came that this restless people
had again revolted. The efforts he had made were thus
rendered void. And the Emperor was greatly irritated
at their conduct. A learned and ingenious writer,^
whose chronological views alone need here be suspected,
conjectures with great j^yrobability, that the reasons
which might induce the Ai-moricans to thwart the ne-
gotiations of their deputy, were such as the following.
Aetius, the Patrician, their great enemy and dread, was
at this time embarrassed with his Avar against the
Franks, who, under their king Clodion, w^ere then
making an invasion into the north of Gaul, where they
had taken possession of Cambray and Tournay. Se-
condly, the extreme misery of all who lived within the
Roman dominion, except the nobles and chief men, and
the continual reinforcements which daily desertions
brought to the Armorican confederacy, would at the
same time raise their expectations of success in re-
bellion, and make them still more averse to further
connexion with the Empire. Moreover it appears
there was a very general feeling abroad that the
duration of the Roman power, as foretold by the

' L'Abbc^ Dubos Pltablissement dc la Monarchic Francaise.
torn. i. p. 393.


ancient pagan oracles, was now abont to expire.
Lastly, the otHcers and auxiliaries appear to have
taken an unfair advantage of the suspension of
arms, in order to form underhand a party within the
Armorican republic, with a view to an easier conquest
hereafter. Whether Eochar, with that inconsistency
which is so frequent after sudden revivals of conscience,
and that natural tendency of a Barbarian to gratify
whatever impression was uppermost, violated his sacred
engagements with German and gave fresh alarm to the
Armoricans, we are not strictly informed. It might
seem indeed that this latter people trifled with the cha-
racter of their ambassador. But the case requires con-
sideration. The pardon and favour of the Court of
Ravenna, though the most easily obtained, Avas not
after all the main point to be gained. When there are
many degrees of authority, it is the nearest to them-
selves which men are most interested in conciliating.
As long as Aetius and the Alani remained in their
neighbourhood, the Armoricans would ever have to
fear. It was also an impolitic measure, though the
only one practicable, to apply to the Court of Ravenna,
instead of Aetius. However, the revolt of the nation
was soon after followed by a severe chastisement at the
hands of their enemies. ^ Still up to the great invasion
of the Huns in 451, the Armoricans had not been en-
tirely subdued, and continued to give no little anxiety
to the vigilant Patrician. But when this scourge of
God threatened Gaul, political animosities were laid
aside, and all the inhabitants of the country united
against Attila and his forces.^ And now to return.

' Constantius. - Dubos, torn. i. p. 439-441.


His Death.

OxE morning after the celebration of mass (the expres-
sion belongs to the original), St. German was discours-
ing upon subjects of religion with the Bishops that
waited on him. Li the middle of the conversation he
said to them : " I commend to you, beloved brethren,
my death. Methought, during the sleep of the night,
I received from our Lord the provisions for a journey ;
and when I asked the cause of this joorney, ' Fear not, he
said, I send thee to thy proper country, to no foreign land ;
there thou shalt have eternal rest and peace.' " The Bi-
shops then endeavoured to interpret the dream other-
wise ; but he continued to refer it to his death ; " I
well know what that country is which God promises to
his servants." His foresight was not at fault. A few
days after, on the 25th of July, 448, a. d., he was taken
seriously ill. "When he grew no better but ever worse,
the whole city was moved. It was clear death was now
approaching with rapid strides, as if to spare him, who
had died for thirty years to the world, the sufferings of
a protracted departure. Among the numbers who came
to pay their last respects to him while alive, was the
Empress Placidia. Putting aside tlie grandeur of her
rank, she hastened to visit his bedside. She then pro-
mised to grant whatever he should ask. Upon one
thing he laid great stress : his body was to be restored
to his native country ; nor was it a request which Pla-
cidia was inclined to accept. He was not however re-


fused. Li the meantime multitudes came to visit the
dying Saint by night and by day. Dui-ing the seven
days of his sickness, there was a choir at his bedside

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanLives of the English saints (Volume 2) → online text (page 29 of 33)