|ST. GERMAIN, BISHOP OF PARIS|
|Feast: May 28
of Paris; born near Autun, Saône-et-Loire, c. 496; died at Paris, 28 May, 576.
He studied at Avalon and also at Luzy under the guidance of his cousin Scapilion,
a priest. At the age of thirty-four he was ordained by St. Agrippinus of Autun
and became Abbot of Saint-Symphorien near that town. His characteristic virtue,
love for the poor, manifested itself so strongly in his alms-giving, that his
monks, fearing he would give away everything, rebelled. As he happened to be in
Paris, in 555, when Bishop Eusebius died, Childebert kept him, and with the
unanimous consent of the clergy and people he was consecrated to the vacant see.
Under his influence the king, who had been very worldly was reformed and led a
Christian life. In his new state the bishop continued to practise the virtues
and austerities of his monastic life and laboured hard to diminish the evils
caused by the incessant wars and the licence of the nobles. He attended the
Third and Fourth Councils of Paris (557, 573) and also the Second Council of
Tours (566). He persuaded the king to stamp out the pagan practices still
existing in Gaul and to forbid the excess that accompanied the celebration of
most Christian festivals. Shortly after 540 Childebert making war in Spain,
besieged Saragossa. The inhabitants had placed themselves under the protection
of St. Vincent, martyr. Childebert learning this, spared the city and in return
the bishop presented him with the saint's stole. When he came back to Paris, the
king caused a church to be erected in the suburbs in honour of the martyr to
receive the relic. Childebert fell dangerously ill about this time, at his
palace of Celles, but was miraculously healed by Germain, as is attested in the
king's letters-patent bestowing the lands of Celles on the church of Paris, in
return for the favour he had received. In 588 St. Vincent's church was completed
and dedicated by Germain, 23 December, the very day Childebert died. Close by
the church a monastery was erected. Its abbots had both spiritual and temporal
jurisdiction over the suburbs of St. Germain till about the year 1670. The
church was frequently plundered and set on fire by the Normans in the ninth
century. It was rebuilt in 1014 and dedicated in 1163 by Pope Alexander III.
Childebert was succeeded by Clotaire, whose reign was short. At his death (561)
the monarchy was divided among his four sons, Charibert becoming King of Paris.
He was a vicious, worthless creature, and Germain was forced to excommunicate
him in 568 for his immorality. Charibert died in 570. As his brothers quarrelled
over his possessions the bishop encountered great difficulties. He laboured to
establish peace, but with little success. Sigebert and Chilperic, instigated by
their wives, Brunehaut and the infamous murderess Fredegunde, went to war, and
Chilperic being defeated, Paris fell into Sigebert's hands. Germain wrote to
Brunehaut (his letter is preserved) asking her to use her influence to prevent
further war. Sigebert was obdurate. Despite Germain's warning he set out to
attack Chilperic at Tournai, whither he had fled, but Fredegunde caused him to
be assassinated on the way at Vitri in 575. Germain himself died the following
year before peace was restored. His remains were interred in St. Symphorien's
chapel in the vestibule of St. Vincent's church, but in 754 his relics were
solemnly removed into the body of the church, in the presence of Pepin and his
son, Charlemagne, then a child of seven. From that time the church became known
as that of St. Germain-des-Pres. In addition to the letter mentioned above we
have a treatise on the ancient Gallican liturgy, attributed to Germain, which
has been published by Martene in his "Thesauruis Novus Anecdotorum".
St. Germain's feast is kept on 28 May.
BUTLER, Lives of the Saints, II, 296-8; BENNETT in Dict. Christ. Biog., s. v. (18); GUERIN, Vie des Saints (Paris, 1880), VI, 264-71; Acta SS., May, VI, 774-8; MABILLON, Acta SS. O.S.B. (1668-72), I, 234-45; DUPLESSY, Histoire de St. Germain (Paris, 1831); FRAICINET, Not. biog. sur St. Germain-des-Pres (Agen, 1881); Anal. Bolland. (1883), II, 69; BOUILLART, Hist. de l'abbaye de St. Germain (Paris, 1724).
A. A. Macerlean
From the Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright © 1913 by the Encyclopedia Press,
Inc. Electronic version copyright © 1996 by New Advent, Inc.
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