« Gennadius (11) Massiliensis, presbyter of Marseilles Genovefa, patron saint of Paris and France Genseric, king of the Vandals »

Genovefa, patron saint of Paris and France

Genovefa (Geneviève), patron saint of Paris and of France. The most ancient records tell the story of her life as follows: About a.d. 430 St. Germanus of Auxerre and St. Lupus of Troyes, proceeding to England to combat the Pelagian heresy, stayed one evening at Nanterre, then a village, about 7 miles from Paris. The villagers assembled to see the two renowned prelates, and a little girl attracted the notice of St. Germanus. He learnt that her name was Genovefa, her parents' names Severus and Gerontia. The parents were summoned, and bidden rejoice in the sanctity of their daughter, who would be the means of saving many. Addressing himself to the child, he dwelt on the high state of virginity, and engaged her to consecrate herself. Before departing St. Germanus reminded her of her promise, and gave her a brazen coin marked with the cross, to wear as her only ornament. Henceforth miracles marked her out as the spouse of Christ. When St. Germanus arrived in Paris on a second journey to Britain, he asked tidings of St. Genovefa, and was met with the murmurs of her detractors. Disregarding their tales, he sought her dwelling, humbly saluted her, shewed the people the floor of her chamber wet with her secret tears, and commended her to their love. When the rumour of Attila's merciless and irresistible progress reached Paris, the terrified citizens were for fleeing with their families and goods. But Genovefa 385assembled the matrons and bade them seek deliverance by prayer and fasting rather than by flight. The Huns were diverted through the efficacy of her prayers, as after-ages believed (c. 448). Her abstinence and self-inflicted privations were notable. From her 15th to her 50th year she ate but twice a week, and then only bread of barley or beans. Thereafter, by command of her bishops, she added a little fish and milk. Every Saturday she kept a vigil in her church of St. Denys, and from Epiphany till Easter remained immured in her cell. Before her death Clovis, of whose conversion a later legend has made her the joint author with Clotilda, began to build for her the church which later bore her name. Unfinished at his death, it was completed by Clotilda, and dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul. Upon Genovefa's death (Jan. 3, 512) she was buried in it.

The chief authority for her history is an anonymous author, who asserts that he wrote 18 years after her death, therefore c. a.d. 530. This life was first published by Jean Ravisi, of Nevers, in his Des Femmes illustres (Paris, 521), and then by Surius, with corrections in the style (Jan. 3); again, by the Bollandists, in 1643, from better MSS., together with another Life differing only in unimportant particulars (Acta SS. Jan. 1, 138 seq.). The Life of St. Germanus of Auxerre by Constantius (c. 5, Boll. Acta SS. Jul. vii. 211), and that part of St. Genovefa's which relates to him, almost certainly have a common source, or else one is taken from the other, with slight alterations. That episode being subtracted, there is nothing in the remainder which might not be the work of a later age. The history, therefore, must be accepted with great doubt. Innumerable Lives of St. Genovefa have appeared in France in modern times, mostly of a devotional character, and useless for critical or historical purposes. Saintyves, Vie de Ste. Geneviève; Baillet, Vies des saints, Jan. 3, t. ii. 417; Bedouet, Hist. et eulte de Ste. G. (Paris, 1866); Lefeuve, Hist. de Ste. G. c. xiii. (Paris, 1842); Fleury, Hist. ecclés. lxix. 22, lxxiv. 39; Dulaure, Hist. de Paris, i. 240–241.

[S.A.B.]

« Gennadius (11) Massiliensis, presbyter of Marseilles Genovefa, patron saint of Paris and France Genseric, king of the Vandals »





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