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E06021: 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 healed the withered leg of the son of the British aristocrat Elafus, during his second visit to Britain (430s/440s).

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posted on 2018-07-19, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Constantius of Lyon, Life of Germanus of Auxerre 26-7

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

Constantius states that after the successful conclusion of his mission to Arles to obtain a tax remission for Auxerre ($E06045), Germanus paid another visit to Britain, after hearing that Pelagianism was again spreading there (§ 25).

Interea sinistri spiritus, peruolantes per totam insulam, Germanum uenire inuitis uaticinationibus nuntiabant, in tantum ut Elafus quidam regionis illius primus in occursum sanctorum sine ulla manifesti nuntii relatione properauerit, exhibens secum filium quem in ipso flore adulescentiae debilitas dolenda damnauerat. Erat enim arescentibus neruis, contracto poplite, cui per siccitatem cruris usus uestigii n negabatur. Hunc Elafium prouincia tota subsequitur; ueniunt sacerdotes, occurrit inscia multitudo, confestim benedictio et sermonis diuini doctrina profunditur. Recognoscit populum in ea qua reliquerat credulitate durantem, intellegunt, culpam esse paucorum, inquirunt auctores inuentosque condemnant.

Cum subito Elafus pedibus aduoluitur sacerdotum, offerens filium, cuius necessitatem aetas et debilitas etiam sine precibus allegabant. Fit communis omnium dolor, praecipue sacerdotum, qui conceptam misericordiam ad diuinam clementiam contulerunt. Statimque adulescentem beatus Germanus sedere conpellit, adtrectat poplitem debilitate curuatum et per tota infirmitatis spatia medicabilis dextra percurrit. Salubrem tactum sanitas festina subsequitur; ariditas sucum, nerui officia receperunt, et in conspectu omnium filio incolomitas, patri filius reformatur. Inplentur populi stupore miraculi, et in pectoribus omnium fides catholica inculcata firmatur.

'Meanwhile evil spirits, flying over the whole island, made known through the involuntary prophecies of their victims the coming of Germanus, with the result that a certain Elafus, the chief man of the locality, came hurrying to meet the holy men without having had any news of them through any regular messenger. He brought with him his son who had been crippled in early youth by a most grievous malady. His sinews had withered and the tendons of the knee had contracted and his withered leg made it impossible for him to stand on his feet. The whole province came along with Elafus. The bishops arrived and the crowds came upon them unexpectedly. At once blessings and the words of God were showered upon them. Germanus could see that the people as a whole had persevered in the faith in which he had left them and the bishops realised that the guilt was only of a few. They enquired after those responsible and when they were identified condemned them.

Suddenly Elafus fell on his knees before the bishops and presented to them his son, whose youth and helplessness made his need clear without words. Everyone felt acutely for him, the bishops most of all, and in their pity they had recourse to the mercy of God. The blessed Germanus at once made the boy sit down, then felt the bent knee and ran his healing hand over all the diseased parts. Health speedily followed the life-giving touch. What was withered became supple, the sinews resumed their proper work and, before the eyes of all, the son got back a sound body and the father got back a son. The crowds were overwhelmed by the miracle and the catholic faith implanted in them was strengthened in all of them.'

After this incident Constantius states that Germanus preached further in Britain, but does not give any details. His mission ends with the expulsion of the Pelagians from Britain, and he returns to Auxerre. For his next miracle, see $E06025.

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


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, ob. c. 448 : S00455

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 Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Children Aristocrats Crowds Heretics Demons


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 healing takes place during the second visit of Germanus to Britain, at an uncertain point in the 430s or 440s. The other bishop with him on this occasion was Severus, whose see is not identified by Constantius, but who was probably the bishop of Trier mentioned in the Life of Lupus of Troyes (E00673). Noteworthy in Constantius' account of the healing of Elafus' son is the claim that news of Germanus' return to Britain was carried through the island by demons, who announced it through the mouths of those they possessed. Constantius specifies that this was the means by which Elafus, described as 'the chief man of the locality' (regionis illius primus), had learned of Germanus' and Severus' presence, and that he therefore sought them out, bringing a crowd with him. This contrasts with the central healing miracle of Germanus' first visit to Britain (§ 15; E05881), which takes place before a crowd that had assembled to hear Germanus debate with the Pelagians. However, in the second case too, Constantius claims that Germanus and his colleague first discussed doctrine: establishing that the crowd was still faithful to orthodoxy, enquiring after the identity of those who had been spreading heresy, and then condemning them. Only at this point does Elafus 'suddenly' (subito) throw himself at their feet and present his son to them. Unlike the earlier miracle, in which Germanus healed the blind girl's eyes by touching them with the capsule of relics that he kept around his neck, this time Germanus heals the leg of Elafus' son solely by touching it with his hand. As with with the healing of the blind girl, we are told that the miracle had the effect of confirming the crowd in their acceptance of the orthodox doctrine preached by the bishops. The name of the man whose son Germanus healed is given here as Elafus, in line with Borius' edition of the text. The name is also given as Elafius in numerous manuscripts, and in Levison's edition.


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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