Celtic and Old English Saints          31 July

* St. Germain of Auxerre
* St. Neot of Cornwall
* St. Joseph of Arimathea

St. Germanus (Germain), Bishop of Auxerre

Bishop of Auxerre, born at Auxerre c. 380; died at Ravenna, 31 July,
448. He was the son of Rusticus and Germanilla, and his family was one
of the noblest in Gaul in the latter portion of the fourth century. He
received the very best education provided by the distinguished schools
of Arles and Lyons, and then went to Rome, where he studied eloquence
and civil law. He practised there before the tribunal of the prefect for
some years with great success. His high birth and brilliant talents
brought him into contact with the court, and he married Eustachia, a
lady highly esteemed in imperial circles.

The emperor sent him back to Gaul, appointing him one of the six dukes,
entrusted with the government of the Gallic provinces. He resided at
Auxerre and gave himself up to all the enjoyments that naturally fell to
his lot. At length he incurred the displeasure of the bishop, St.
Amator. It appears that Germain was accustomed to hang the trophies of
the chase on a certain tree, which in earlier times had been the scene
of pagan worship. Amator remonstrated with him in vain. One day when the
duke was absent, the bishop had the tree cut down and the trophies
burnt. Fearing the anger of the duke, who wished to kill him, he fled
and appealed to the prefect Julius for permission to confer the tonsure
on Germain. This being granted, Amator, who felt that his own life was
drawing to a close, returned. When the duke came to the church, Amator
caused the doors to be barred and gave him the tonsure against his will,
telling him to live as one destined to be his successor, and forthwith
made him a deacon.

A wonderful change was instantly wrought in Germain, and he accepted
everything that had happened as the Divine will. He gave himself up to
prayer, study, and works of charity, and, when in a short time Amator
died, Germain was unanimously chosen to fill the vacant see, being
consecrated 7 July, 418. His splendid education now served him in good
stead in the government of the diocese, which he administered with great
sagacity. He distributed his goods among the poor, and practised great
austerities. He built a large monastery dedicated to Sts. Cosmas and
Damian on the banks of the Yonne, whither he was wont to retire in his
spare moments.

In 429 the bishops of Britain sent an appeal to the continent for help
against the Pelagian heretics who were corrupting the faith of the
island. St. Prosper, who was in Rome in 431, tells us in his Chronicle
that Pope Celestine commissioned the Church in Gaul to send help, and
Germain and Lupus of Troyes were deputed to cross over to Britain. On
his way Germain stopped at Nanterre, where he met a young child,
Genevieve, destined to become the patroness of Paris. One of the early
lives of St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, tells us that he formed one of
St. Germain's suite on this occasion. Tradition tells us that the main
discussion with the representatives of Pelagianism took place at St.
Alban's, and resulted in the complete discomfiture of the heretics.
Germain remained in Britain for some time preaching, and established
several schools for the training of the clergy.

On his return he went to Arles to visit the prefect, and obtained the
remission of certain taxes that were oppressing the people of Auxerre.
He constructed a church in honour of St. Alban about this time in his
episcopal city.

In 447 he was invited to revisit Britain, and went with Severus, bishop
of Tr?ves. It would seem that he did much for the Church there, if one
can judge from the traditions handed down in Wales. On one occasion he
is said to have aided the Britons to gain a great victory (called from
the battle-cry, Alleluia! the Alleluia victory) over a marauding body of
Saxons and Picts.

On his return to Gaul, he proceeded to Armorica (Brittany) to intercede
for the Armoricans who had been in rebellion. Their punishment was
deferred at his entreaty, till he should have laid their case before the
emperor. He set out for Italy, and reached Milan on 17 June, 448. Then
he journeyed to Ravenna, where he interviewed the empress-mother, Galla
Placidia, on their behalf. The empress and the bishop of the city, St.
Peter Chrysologus, gave him a royal welcome, and the pardon he sought
was granted. While there he died on 31 July, 450.

His body, as he requested when dying, was brought back to Auxerre and
interred in the Oratory of St. Maurice, which he had built. Later the
oratory was replaced by a large church, which became a celebrated
Benedictine abbey known as St. Germain's. This tribute to the memory of
the saint was the gift of Queen Clotilda, wife of Clovis. Some centuries
later, Charles the Bald had the shrine opened, and the body was found
intact. It was embalmed and wrapped in precious cloths, and placed in a
more prominent position in the church. There it was preserved till 1567,
when Auxerre was taken by the Huguenots, who desecrated the shrine and
cast out the relics. It has been said that the relics were afterwards
picked up and placed in the Abbey of St. Marion on the banks of the
Yonne, but the authenticity of the relics in this church has never been
canonically recognized.

St. Germain was honoured in Cornwall and at St. Alban's in England's
pre-reformation days, and has always been the patron of Auxerre.

[ http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06472b.htm ]

An except from the Life of Saint Germain, written by Heric of Auxerre:

"Since the glory of the father shines in the training of the children,
of the many sons in Christ whom St. Germain is believed to have had as
disciples in religion, let it suffice to make mention here, very
briefly, of one most famous, Patrick, the special Apostle of the Irish
nation, as the record of his work proves. Subject to that most holy
discipleship for 18 years, he drank in no little knowledge in Holy
Scripture from the stream of so great a well-spring. Germain sent him,
accompanied by Segetius, his priest, to Celestine, Pope of Rome,
approved of by whose judgement, supported by whose authority, and
strengthened by whose blessing, he went on his way to Ireland."

In art, Saint Germanus is a bishop with an ass at his feet. Sometimes
the image may contain huntsmen and wild game around him, or Germanus
leading a dragon with seven heads (Roeder).

St. Neot of Cornwall, Hermit
Died c. 877-880. According to tradition, Saint Neot was a monk of
Glastonbury and a priest, who became a hermit in Cornwall at the place
now called after him. His relics were subsequently taken to Saint Neot's
in Huntingdonshire (Benedictines).

In art, Saint Neot is an old monk with a pilgrim's staff and hat. He may
be sitting with his feet in a pool as a hind runs to him for
protection (Roeder). Neot is venerated at Glastonbury, Malvern, and
Saint Neot's (Cornwall) (Roeder).

St. Joseph of Arimathea
[Feastday in Western Calendars is 17 and 27 March]
1st century. We read about Joseph of Arimathea, the "noble counsellor,"
in all four Gospels (Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:43-46; Luke 23:50-56; and
John 19:38-42). As with many of the Biblical figures, numerous legends
accrued around his name in later years.

Saint Joseph was a wealthy member of the temple council and a secret
follower of Jesus because he was afraid of persecution from Jewish
officials. He attended the Crucifixion, and legend has it that he caught
Jesus's blood as he hung upon the cross. What is said to be the Sacro
Catino in which Joseph caught the blood of Christ at the Crucifixion is
at San Lorenzo, Genoa, Italy. Joseph persuaded Pontius Pilate to let him
have Jesus's body, wrapped it in linen and herbs, and laid it in a tomb
carved in a rock in the side of a hill, a tomb that he had prepared for

Later tradition has embellished this account to add that Joseph was a
distant relative of Jesus, who derived his wealth from tin mines in
Cornwall, which he visited from time to time. One version tells the
story of the teenaged Jesus accompanying Joseph on one such visit. This
is the background of the poem "Jerusalem," by William Blake (1757-1827):

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear!
O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

This version continues to say that, after the Crucifixion, Saint Joseph
returned to Cornwall, bringing with him the chalice of the Last Supper,
known as the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail was hidden and played an
important part in the folk history of England in the great national epic
about King Arthur and his knights who unsuccessfully seek to find it.

Upon reaching Glastonbury, he planted his staff, which took root and
blossomed into a thorn tree. This is the Holy Thorn, which flowers at
mod-winter at Christmas and again in May. King Charles I baited his
wife's Roman Catholic chaplain by
observing that, although Pope Gregory had proclaimed a reform of the
calendar, the Glastonbury Thorn ignored the Pope's decree and continued
to blossom on Christmas Day according to the Old Calendar. One of
Cromwell's soldiers cut down the Thorn because it was a relic of
superstition. We are told that he was blinded by one of the thorns as it
fell. A tree allegedly grown from a cutting of the original Thorn
survives today in Glastonbury (and trees propagated from it stand on the
grounds of the Cathedral in Washington, DC, and presumably elsewhere)
and leaves from it are sold in all the tourist shops in Glastonbury.

It was not until about the middle of the 13th century that the legend
appears saying Joseph accompanied Saint Philip to Gaul to preach and was
sent by him to England as the leader of 12 missionaries. It is said that
the company, inspired by Gabriel the archangel, built a church made of
wattles in honour of the Virgin Mary on an island called Yniswitrin,
given to them by the king of England. The church eventually evolved into
Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset. Supposedly Joseph died there, was buried
on the island, and miraculous cures worked at his grave.

Is there any merit to the legends of Saint Joseph? Perhaps. Tin, an
essential ingredient of bronze, was highly valued in ancient times, and
Phoenician ships imported tin from Cornwall. It is not unreasonable to
believe that some first-century, Jewish Christians might have been
investors in the Cornwall tin trade. Christianity gained a foothold in
Britain very early, perhaps, in part, because of the commerce in tin. If
so, then the early British Christians would have a tradition that they
had been evangelized by a wealthy Jewish Christian. Having forgotten his
name, they might have consulted the Scriptures and found that Joseph and
Saint Barnabas fit the description. Because much of the life of Barnabas
was already described by the Acts of the Apostles making him an unlikely
candidate, only Joseph was left. Thus, Christians seeking an immediate
connection with their Lord, grasped on to Joseph as their evangelizer
(Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopaedia, Robinson,

In art, Saint Joseph is portrayed as a very old man, carrying a pot of
ointment or a flowering staff or a pair of altar cruets (containing the
blood and sweat of Jesus) (White). He may be shown taking the crown of
thorns from the dead Christ. At other times he is shown with the shroud
and crown of thorns, a thorn tree by him, or a box of spices (Roeder).
He is venerated at Glastonbury and patron of grave-diggers and
undertakers (Roeder, White).

To see William Blake's Joseph of Arimathea among the Rocks of Albion,
click http://metalab.unc.edu/wm/paint/auth/blake/arimathea.jpg

Icons of St. Joseph of Arimathea

Troparion tone 2
Noble Joseph took Thine immaculate Body down from the tree,/ wrapped it
in a clean shroud and spices,/ and having embalmed It, laid It in a new
sepulchre./ But on the third day Thou didst rise, O Lord, granting the
world great mercy.

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