Germain of Paris

From Academic Kids

Saint Germain (born near Autun c. 496; died in Paris, May 28, 576), was a bishop of Paris, who was canonized in 754.

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. He was hard-working and austere, and his alms-giving was so generous that his monks, fearing he would give away everything, rebelled. As he happened to be in Paris, in 555, when Eusebius, bishop of Paris, died, King Childebert detained him and he was consecrated bishop of Paris.

Under his influence Childebert is said to have led a reformed 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.

The church of Saint-Germain-des-Pres

In 542, Childebert, while making war in Spain, besieged Saragossa, but when he heard that the inhabitants had placed themselves under the protection of St. Vincent, martyr, Childebert raised his siege and spared the city. In gratitude the bishop of Saragossa presented him with the saint's stole. When Childebert came back to Paris, the king caused a church to be erected where he could see it across the fields to receive the relic. In 588 St. Vincent's church was completed and dedicated by Germain, 23 December; on the very same day, Childebert died. Close by the church a monastery was erected. Its abbots had both spiritual and temporal jurisdiction over the suburbs of Saint-Germain (lasting 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 briefly by Clotaire, who divided the royal demesnes among his four sons, Charibert becoming King of Paris. He was a vicious creature, and Germain was forced to excommunicate him in 568 for his immorality. Charibert died in 570. As his surviving brothers fell to violent strife 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 Fredegund, 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 Fredegund caused him to be assassinated on the way at Vitry 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, when he was canonized, 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, and the church was reconsecrated as Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

In addition to the letter mentioned above there is a treatise on the ancient Gallican liturgy that has traditionally been attributed to Germain. Venantius Fortunatus wrote a eulogy of his life.

St. Germain's feast is kept on 28 May.

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