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E07552: 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 exorcised a haunted house by finding and reburying the body of the person whose ghost was haunting it.

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posted on 2019-05-07, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Constantius of Lyon, Life of Germanus of Auxerre 10

For a full account of Constantius' Life of Germanus, see $E05841. This passages follows the one discussed in E07551.

Deinde alta iam nocte, cum unus ex clericis legendi suscepisset officium, ille, ieiunio et fatigatione confectus, sopore superatus est: cum subito ante ora legentis adsistit umbra terribilis et paulatim sub oculis intuentis erigitur, parietes etiam saxorum imbribus conliduntur. Tum uero deterritus lector praesidium sacerdotis implorat. Qui statim prosiliens, effigiem terribilis imaginis intuetur et, praemissa obsecratione nominis Christi, imperat ut quis esset quidue illic ageret fateretur. Qui protinus, terrifica uanitate deposita, uoce humili more supplicantis eloquitur, se uel conparem suum auctores criminum fuisse multorum, insepultos iacere et ob hoc inquietare homines, quia ipsi quieti esse non possent; rogare ut pro his Dominum precaretur, quatenus recepti requiem mererentur. Ad haec uir sanctus indoluit imperatque ut locum ostenderet, quo iacerent. Tum uero, cereo praecedente, dux umbra progreditur et inter difficultates maximas ruinarum, intempesta nocte, locum in a quo proiecti fuerant indicauit. Vt uero mundo est redditus dies, circumiectos incolas inuitat, hortatur, ipse operis maturator adsistens. Rudera tumultuarie superiecta per tempus rastris auulsa purgantur, inueniuntur corpora fusa sine ordine, ossa ferreis adhuc nexibus inligata. Ad legem sepulturae fossa dirigitur, membra exuta uinculis linteis ambiuntur, humus superiecta conponitur, oratio intercessionis inpenditur; obtinetur defunctis requies, uiuentibus quies, ita ut post eandem diem sine ullo terroris indicio domicilium frequentato habitatore floruerit.

'Presently, when the night was well advanced, one of the clergy had begun to read aloud, as his duty was, but the Bishop, worn out by fasting and fatigue, had fallen asleep. Suddenly there appeared before the reader's eyes a dreadful spectre, which rose up little by little as he gazed on it, while the walls were pelted with a shower of stones. The terrified reader implored the protection of the Bishop, who started up and fixed his eyes upon the fearful apparition. Then, invoking the name of Christ, he ordered it to declare who it was and what it was doing there. At once it lost its terrifying demeanour and, speaking low as a humble suppliant, said that he and a companion, after committing many crimes, were lying unburied, and that was why they disturbed the living, because they could not rest quietly themselves. It asked the Bishop to pray to the Lord for them that he would take them to himself and grant them eternal rest. Moved to pity, the holy man told the apparition to show him where they lay. Then, with a torch carried in front, the ghost proceeded to lead the way and, in spite of great difficulties due to the ruins and the stormy night, pointed out the place where they had been thrown. With the return of day the Bishop persuaded some of the neighbours to come, and himself stood by to urge on the work. Rubble that had accumulated haphazard in the course of time was raked up and cleared away. The bodies were found, thrown down anyhow, the bones still fastened together with iron fetters. A grave was dug in accordance with the Church's law, the limbs were freed from the chains and wrapped in winding sheets, earth was thrown upon them and smoothed down, and the prayers for the dead were recited. There was repose for the dead and quiet for the living. From that day onwards the house lost all its terrors and was restored and regularly occupied.'

This passage is followed by the one discussed in E07039.

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


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

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 Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Exorcism

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves)


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 incident is narrated during part of the Life (§§ 7-11) in which Constantius narrates miracles which took place in Germanus' see of Auxerre (most of the Life is devoted to events that take place elsewhere). The story of a house haunted by the ghost of someone who had not been properly buried has many parallels in classical and early Christian literature. One pagan example, to which Borius suggests Constantius may have been consciously alluding, is Pliny, Letters 7.27 (Borius 1965, 24).


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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