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E06024: 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 calmed a storm while crossing from Gaul to Britain in 429, with the assistance of *Lupus (bishop of Troyes, ob. 479, S00418).

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posted on 2018-07-19, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Constantius of Lyon, Life of Germanus of Auxerre 13

For a full account of Constantius' Life of Germanus, see $E05841. This passage follows the one discussed in $E07039.

Germanus and Lupus are travelling to Britain in response to a delegation from the British church, which asked for assistance from the Gallic bishops in combating the spread of Pelagianism. They set sail across the Channel:

Nec multum post occurrit in pelago relegionis inimica uis daemonum, qui tantos ac tales uiros pertendere ad recipiendam populorum salutem liuidis iniquitatibus inuiderent. Obponunt pericula, procellas concitant, caelum diemque nubium nocte subducunt et tenebrarum caliginem maris atque aeris horrore congeminant. Ventorum furorem uela non sustinent et oceani moles fragilis cumba uix tolerat. Cedebant ministeria uicta nautarum; ferebatur nauigium oratione, non uiribus; et casu dux ipse uel pontifex, fractus corpore, lassitudine et sopore resolutus est.

Tum uero, quasi repugnatore cessante, tempestas excitata conualuit et iam nauigium superfusis fluctibus mergebatur. Tum beatus Lupus omnesque turbati excitant seniorem, elementis furentibus obponendum. Qui periculi inmanitate constantior Christum inuocat, increpat oceanum et procellis saeuientibus causam relegionis obponit statimque, adsumpto oleo, in nomine Trinitatis leui aspergine fluctus saeuientes obpressit. Collegam commonet, hortatur uniuersos, oratio uno ore et clamore profunditur.

Adest diuinitas, fugantur inimici, tranquillitas serena subsequitur, uenti e contrario ad itineris ministeria uertuntur, nauigium famulatrix unda prosequitur, decursisque inmensis spatiis, breui optati litoris quiete potiuntur. Ibi conueniens ex diuersis partibus multitudo excepit sacerdotes quos uenturos etiam uaticinatio aduersa praedixerat; nuntiabant enim sinistri spiritus, quod timebant. Qui imperio sacerdotum, dum ab obsessis corporibus detruduntur, et tempestatis ordinem et pericula quae intulerant fatebantur uictosque se eorum meritis et imperio non negabant.

'Then it was not long before the ocean was assaulted by the violence of demons, haters of religion, who were livid with malice at the sight of such great men hastening to bring salvation to the nations. They heaped up dangers, roused the gales, hid the heavens and the day under a night of clouds and filled the thick darkness with the terrors of the sea and air. The sails could not resist the fury of the winds and the fragile craft scarcely sustained the weight of the waters. The sailors were powerless and abandoned their efforts; the vessel was navigated by prayer and not by muscles. And at that point the leader himself, the bishop, his body worn out, in his weariness went to sleep.

Then indeed did the storm put forth its strength; it was as if a restraining hand had gone. Before long the vessel was actually being swamped by the waves that swept over it. At last the blessed Lupus and all the excited throng aroused their chief, to match him against the raging elements. He, all the more steadfast for the very immensity of the danger, in the name of Christ chided the ocean, pleading the cause of religion against the savagery of the gales. Then, taking some oil, he lightly sprinkled the waves in the name of the Trinity and this diminished their fury. Consulting his colleague, he now called upon everybody; and prayer was poured out by their united voices.

And there was God! The enemies of souls were put to flight, the air became clear and calm, the contrary winds were turned to aid the voyage, the currents flowed in the service of the ship. Thus great distances were covered and soon all were enjoying repose on the desired shore. There great crowds had gathered from many regions to receive the bishops, whose coming had been foretold by the enemies of souls, for the spirits of evil were heralds of what they feared. And, as they were being cast out of the bodies of the possessed by the prelates, they acknowledged that they had contrived the storm and its dangers, and could not deny that the holiness and the authority of the prelates had vanquished them.'

Constantius goes on to describe the activities of Germanus and Lupus in Britain: they attract vast crowds to hear them preach and they defeat the Pelagians in debate (§ 14). There then follows the healing miracle discussed in E05881.

Text: Borius 1965. Translation: Hoare 1954.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

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 Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Exorcism

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops 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 event takes place during the crossing of the Channel by Germanus and his colleague Lupus of Troyes at the beginning of their mission to combat Pelagianism in the British church. This was in 429: recorded independently in the Chronicle of Prosper of Aquitaine (Prosper, Chronicle 1301), it is the only incident in the entire Life by Constantius which can be reliably dated to a particular year. The crossing would have been vulnerable to storms since it took place during the winter: this is not stated explicitly by Constantius, but is implied by his claim that the so-called Hallelujah Victory of the Britons over the Picts and Saxons (Life of Germanus 17-18), which is depicted as taking place towards the end of Germanus' time in Britain, occurred during Lent. The Life of Lupus of Troyes (E00673) states explicitly that the two bishops crossed to Britain during winter. Constantius, however, does not attribute the storm merely to winter weather, but to a deliberate attempt by demons to disrupt Germanus' mission, to which the demons subsequently confessed when the bishops exorcised demoniacs after their arrival in Britain. As throughout Constantius' narrative of the British mission, Lupus is placed very clearly in a secondary position to Germanus, not as his equal. In this instance his role is merely to wake Germanus up so that he can calm the storm with his prayers.


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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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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