Latin: Germanus Antissiodorensis
Welsh: Garmon Sant
French: Saint Germain l’Auxerrois
Born: c. 378, Auxerre
Died: c. 442-448, Ravenna
Saint Germanus was a prominent bishop and missionary in the fifth century. He was born around 378 in the region of Gaul (present-day France). He played a significant role in combating heresy, particularly Pelagianism, which denied the concept of original sin and the necessity of divine grace in salvation. In response to the spread of Pelagian teachings in Britain, Pope Celestine I sent Germanus on a mission to counter his heresy and support the orthodox faith.
In 429, Germanus traveled to Britain along with Severus, another bishop from Gaul. During their mission, they successfully refuted Pelagianism and restored orthodox Christian teachings. Germanus’s preaching and miracles reportedly had a profound impact on the people, and he was able to win over many converts.
One of the most famous episodes associated with Saint Germanus is the “Alleluia Victory.” According to the account, Germanus led the Britons in battle against a Pictish and Saxon alliance. Before the battle, he instructed the soldiers to shout “Alleluia” as a battle cry. This cry, combined with what was described as divine intervention, reportedly caused confusion among the enemy forces, leading to their defeat. This event became legendary and contributed to Germanus’s reputation as a powerful spiritual leader.
Saint Germanus is also known for his role in promoting monasticism and establishing monastic communities. He supported the growth of monasticism in Gaul and encouraged the establishment of monastic houses and the training of monks.
Germanus served as the Bishop of Auxerre in Gaul for over four decades, leading his diocese with wisdom and spiritual guidance. He died probably around 448 and was venerated as a saint shortly after his death.
In Historia Brittonum, written by Nennius, it is described that Germanus visited Britain again in 447, at the request of King Vortimer. Christianity had been damaged during the reign of Vortigern, whom Vortimer had deposed. When Vortigern reclaimed the throne, Germanus condemned him for marrying his own daughter. When Vortigern ignored Germanus’s pleas to break the union, his castle (in one account) was destroyed in a holy fire.
The name Germanus appears on the ‘Pillar of Eliseg’ in the eighth paragraph of the inscription on that pillar. This states that Germanus blessed Britu, son of Vortigern, but, seeing that Germanus was sided against the Saxons, this would seem to indicate that his blessing was not of a kindly nature but one that would today be called a curse.