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E05881: Constantius of Lyon, in his Life of *Germanus (bishop of Auxerre, ob. c. 448, S00455), written in Latin at Lyon (central Gaul) between c. 460 and c. 480, describes how Germanus used the capsule (capsula) of relics he wore around his neck to heal a blind girl during his visit to Britain in 429.

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posted on 2018-06-25, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Constantius of Lyon, Life of Germanus of Auxerre 15

For a full account of Constantius' Life of Germanus, see $E05841.

Germanus has travelled to Britain, together with *Lupus of Troyes (S00418), to help the British church defeat the Pelagians. Following their crossing of the Channel ($E06024), Germanus and Lupus engage in a debate with the Pelagians in front of a large crowd. They easily refute their arguments and have already won over the crowd, when the following incident occurs:

Cum subito uir tribuniciae potestatis cum coniuge procedit in medium, decem annorum filiam caecam sinibus ingerens sacerdotum; quam illi offerri aduersariis praeceperunt. Sed conscientia puniente deterriti iungunt cum parentibus preces et curationem paruulae a sacerdotibus deprecantur; qui expectationem populi et inclinatos aduersarios intuentes, orationem breuiter fundunt. Ac deinde Germanus plenus Spiritu sancto inuocat Trinitatem et protinus adhaerentem lateri suo capsulam cum sanctorum reliquiis collo auulsam manibus conprehendit eamque in conspectu omnium puellae oculis adplicauit; quos statim euacuatos tenebris lumine ueritatis impleuit. Exultant parentes miraculo, populus contremescit. Post quam diem ita ex animis hominum persuasio iniqua deleta est ut sacerdotum doctrinam, sitientibus desideriis, sectarentur.

'Suddenly a man of high military rank, accompanied by his wife, stepped into the middle and put his ten-year-old daughter, who was blind, into the arms of the bishops. They told them to take her to their opponents. But the latter, stung by conscience and much alarmed, joined the parents in begging the bishops to cure the little girl. The bishops, seeing that the people were expectant and their opponents in a humbler frame of mind, offered a short prayer, after which Germanus, filled with the Holy Spirit and in the name of the Trinity, took from his neck the reliquary that always hung at his side and in full view of everybody applied it to the eyes of the child. Immediately it expelled their darkness and filled them with light and truth. The parents were filled with joy at the miracle and the onlookers with awe. From that day onwards the false doctrine was so completely uprooted from people's minds that they looked to the bishops for teaching with thirsty souls.'

This passage is followed by the visit of Germanus and Lupus to the shrine of St Alban: E05846.

Text: Borius 1965. Translation: Hoare 1954, adapted.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, ob. c. 448 : S00455 Lupus, bishop of Troyes, ob. 479 : S00418 Saints, unnamed : S00518

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Lyon Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Children Heretics

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic Touching and kissing relics Privately owned relics Reliquary – privately owned

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Ampullae, flasks, etc.


Germanus of Auxerre (PCBE 4, 'Germanus 1', pp. 878-883) was the most important and revered episcopal saint of 5th century Gaul. The Life of Germanus was written at an uncertain date, some years after Germanus' death, which is traditionally dated to 448 (but some scholars would place up to twelve years earlier). The Life was probably written at some point between about 465 and 480. The author was Constantius (PCBE 4, 'Constantius 3', pp. 521-522), a literary figure, possibly a cleric, attested as active in Lyon in the 460s and 470s. For full discussion of the issues relating to the authorship and date of the Life of Germanus, see E05841.


This miracle is narrated by Constantius during Germanus' first visit to Britain, which can be securely dated to 429 (by Prosper of Aquitaine, Chronicle 1301). It is depicted as the final and decisive event in Germanus' campaign against Pelagianism in the British church (the official purpose of his mission), setting the seal on a defeat of heretics which had already effectively been achieved by his preaching and arguments. Germanus is accompanied by his colleague Lupus of Troyes (note sacerdotes in the plural throughout the passage) but the narrative places him firmly in the background, not mentioning him by name and attributing the miracle solely to the actions of Germanus and the power of the relics he carries. In Constantius' narrative this event is followed by the visit of Germanus and Lupus to the shrine of Alban (E05846). This is the only miracle in the Life of Germanus in which Germanus makes use of the small container (capsula) of relics which Constantius says he wore around his neck at all times (E05845). It contrasts with the healing miracle that is central to the narrative of Germanus' second visit to Britain (Life of Germanus 26-7); in that case, when Germanus heals a boy with a withered leg, he does so merely by touching the boy's leg with his hand.


Editions: Borius, R., Constance de Lyon, Vie de saint Germain d'Auxerre (Sources chrétiennes 112; Paris, 1965), with French translation. Levison, W., Vita Germani episcopi Autissiodorensis auctore Constantio, in: Passiones vitaeque sanctorum aevi Merovingici V (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 7; Hannover and Leipzig, 1919), 246-283. English translation: Hoare, F.R., The Western Fathers (London, 1954), 283-320. Reprinted in T.F.X. Noble and T. Head (eds.), Soldiers of Christ: Saints and Saints' Lives from Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (University Park PA, 1995), 75-106.

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