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E07554: 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 miraculously frustrated a thief who tried to steal his horse

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posted on 2019-05-07, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Constantius of Lyon, Life of Germanus of Auxerre 20

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

Following his return from Britain (E05846), Germanus has embarked on a journey from Auxerre to Arles in order to obtain a remission of taxes for the cities in his see (§ 19)

Operae pretium puto mandare memoriae, etiam eius iter clarum fuisse uirtutibus. Necdum territorium suae ciuitatis excesserat, uiam leniter carpens eratque, imminente iam uespera, dies pluuius: cum subito comitatu suo nudus pede, cucullo uacuus, nimis expeditus uiator adcrescit cuius etiam nuditatem condoluit. Qui dolose inhaerens contubernio iungitur mansione et inter innocentes occupatosque custodes, qui Deo, non animalibus uigilabant, iumentum, quo senior uehebatur, praedo nocturnus abripuit. Die reddito amissio euectionis agnoscitur et, ut sacerdoti animal non deesset, unus ex clericis in peditem mutatur ex equite.

Dumque iter agitur, circumiecti comites intuentur beatum uirum extra morem conceptam laetitiam uultus obumbratione uelantem. Quod cum ab omnibus uideretur, unus ex reliquis, auctoritate concepta, causam laetitiae percunctatur. At ille inquiens: "Paulolum commoremur quia infelicis illius labor et inridendus est et dolendus quem mox uidebitis aestuantem." Cumque delapsi animalibus substitissent, paulo post eminus intuentur peditem post se manu captum animal deducentem. Qui breui adiungitur; dum ille accelerat, hi morantur, statimque uestigiis prouolutus, crimen quod commiserat confitetur et ita totius noctis spatium inretitum esse se retulit, ut longius prodire non posset nec euadendi uiam aliam repperisset, nisi ut abductum animal reformaret.

Ad haec uir beatissimus: "Si hesterna, inquit, die nudo tibi tegimen dedissemus, furandi necessitas non fuisset . Quod deest accipe; reforma quod nostrum est." Itaque confessor criminis pro poena commissi non solum ueniam, uerum etiam praemium cum benedictione suscepit.

'I think it worth while putting on record that even the journey itself was notable for miracles. He was still in the territory of his own diocese, making his way without haste, and evening was coming on after a rainy day, when his retinue was suddenly increased by a very scantily equipped traveller, barefoot and without a hood, whose very nakedness moved Germanus to pity. Cunningly passing as one of the party, he shared its quarters in the inn and presently, night robber that he was, went off with the beast ridden by the Bishop, while its unsuspecting guardians were occupied in watching God rather than the animals. When day returned, the loss of the animal was discovered and one of the clergy, in order that the Bishop should have a mount, changed himself from a horseman trooper into a foot solder.

As they proceeded on their journey, those around him noticed in the man of blessings an unusual mirth that he was trying to conceal by covering his face: soon they had all seen it and one of them took it upon himself to inquire the reason for it. “Let us halt for a little,” replied the Bishop, “for the plight of that unfortunate man is both laughable and pitiable. You will soon see him in his confusion.” They stopped and dismounted and soon saw in the distance a man on foot leading the animal he had taken. Before long he had caught them up, hurrying while they waited for him. At once he threw himself at the Bishop’s feet and confessed his crime. He described how all night long he had been held fast as it were in a trap. He could not go forward and had found that there was no other means of getting away except to restore the stolen animal.

To this the man of blessings replied: “If yesterday we had given you the clothing you lacked, you would not have been reduced to stealing. Now take this that you need, and restore what is ours.” Thus, for confessing his crime, the man received, instead of punishment, not only pardon but also a reward and a blessing.

After a brief description of the crowds which flocked to meet Germanus during his journey through Gaul (§ 21), Constantius narrates the miracle described in E06020.

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 Punishing miracle Finding of lost objects, animals, etc.

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops 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 miracle takes place when Germanus is leaving Auxerre on his way to Arles, to request a tax remission for Auxerre (his mission is described in § 19). Constantius' narrative implies that Germanus' journey took place immediately after he returned from his first mission to Britain (in 429), but it was almost certainly several years later: the journey can be dated reasonably closely by Constantius' statement (§ 24) that the Praetorian Prefect at the time was Auxiliaris, who is known to have been in office during the years 435-437 (see PLRE II, 'Auxiliaris 1').


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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