Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict – Saint Germanus, Abbot and Martyr

illustration of Saint Germanus, Abbot and Martyr, from the book 'Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict', designed by Father Amandus LiebhaberSaint Germanus was born at Treves, of which city his father, Optmarus, was ruler. At Mount Romaricus he was clothed as a novice by the celebrated Arnulphus, and from the day he became a monk he endeavoured to be foremost among his brethren in virtue, in humiliations, and in holiness. It was his practice to double the ordinary fasts, to watch all night, to wear out his strength in manual labour, and in the intervals of toil to remain in prayer with hands uplifted to Heaven.

Germanus had been a monk now for some time, when his brother, Numerianus, with a brilliant retinue, came to Mount Romaricus to see him. The young prince, astonished to find his brother pale and emaciated in countenance, dressed in a threadbare habit, and with head bowed down like the lowly, asked him why he thus tortured himself. The Saint, replying in language convincing and eloquent from its sincerity, showed how a little suffering here on earth earned everlasting bliss; and his words had such an effect that Numerianus dismissed his escort and determined to join his brother in the monastic life.

Subsequently Saint Germanus departed to Luxovium, which was then presided over by Wandelbertus. There too our Saint’s purity and holiness were so conspicuous, that Wandelbertus and his brethren voted him worthy of the honour of priesthood – an honour at that time very rare among monks.

Gundonius, Duke of Alsace, a sincere admirer of the monks of Saint Benedict, had built at his own expense a Monastery for them, and he applied to Luxeuil for a colony for it. In charge of this colony Saint Germanus was despatched, and he became the first Abbot of Munsterthal. There the Rule was most strictly observed, and not even the slightest relaxation was permitted. Gundonius was a frequent visitor at Munsterthal, and he delighted in living the community life, often for days together joining the monks in all their exercises, meals, meditations, and watchings. While he lived they had nothing to fear.

After his death, discord and anarchy broke out among his countrymen. The barbarians, as usual, took advantage of the opportunity to invade the country, torn by dissensions. The Chatti poured into Alsace, and began to ravage the whole province with fire and sword. At last the marauders reached the valley where lay the Monastery of Munsterthal. The Abbot, accompanied by Randoaldus, went out to meet them, and demanded by what right they disturbed the peace and plundered the property of the innocent monks. The only reply was the foulest abuse and the most violent threats. Germanus, in no wise dismayed, continued to denounce their cruelty and to warn them of the vengeance of Heaven. The leader, impatient of his words, struck off the Saint’s head before he could finish speaking ; while Randoaldus, who had never left his Superior’s side, was hewn to pieces by the swords of the rest of the barbarians. Both these true servants of God gained the glorious crown of martyrdom A.D. 700.

– text and illustration taken from Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict by Father Aegedius Ranbeck, O.S.B.