Home  »  Volume V: May  »  St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume V: May. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

May 12

St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople

HE was the son of a famous senator named Justinian. From his youth he shone as a bright light among the clergy, and was chosen bishop of Cyzicus, and in 715, patriarch of Constantinople. In the most degenerate times he kept virtue in countenance and vice in awe, and strenuously defended the faith with equal zeal, learning, and prudence, first against the Monothelites, and afterwards against the Iconoclasts. When Leo the Isaurian commanded by an edict all holy images to be abolished in 725, the patriarch refused to take them out of the churches; and boldly maintained even before the emperor himself, the honour which the church taught to be due to them; in which he was seconded by St. John Damascen, who then lived in the court of the caliph of the Saracens. St. Germanus put the emperor in mind of what he had promised at his coronation, and how he took God to witness that he would not alter any of the traditions of the church. The emperor, after he found that he could not gain the patriarch by flattering words, endeavoured to provoke him to let fall some injurious expression, that he might be accused as a seditious person. But the saint was too well instructed in the school of Christ to forget the rules of meekness and patience. The emperor grew every day more outrageous against him, accusing the emperors his predecessors, and all the bishops and Christians, of idolatry; for he was too ignorant to distinguish between a relative and an absolute worship. After much ill usage, the patriarch was unjustly compelled by the heretics, in 730, to leave his church, when he had governed it fourteen years and five months. He employed the leisure which his banishment procured him at Platanium, his paternal house, in weeping for the evils of the church, and in preparing himself, by the most fervent exercises of penance and devotion, for eternity, which he happily entered on the 12th of May, 733. The elegance and politeness of his writings, especially of his apology for St. Gregory of Nyssa against the Origenists, 1 are admired by Photius. 2 See Theophanes and St. Nicephorus. The saints in all ages have found trials. Heaven is not to be obtained but upon this condition. The expectation of its glory made them embrace their crosses with joy. With St. Chrysostom 3 they often repeated: “If I were to die a thousand times a day, nay, for some time to suffer hell itself, that I may behold Christ in his glory, all would be too little.”  1
Note 1. The loss of this work is extremely to be regretted. [back]
Note 2. Cod. 233. See Fleury, l. 42, n. 55. [back]
Note 3. St. Chrys. ad Theodor. laps. l. 1, p. 17. [back]