Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople

Article

Saint Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, was born in the middle of the seventh century. His exceedingly noble appearance, his abilities and his piety made him, even in his youth, dear to all who knew him. The innocence of his life, and the great talent he had manifested while studying theology, caused the Patriarch, who reigned at that period in Constantinople, to raise him early to the priesthood. The apostolic zeal he showed in protecting the true faith and opposing heresy, soon elevated him to the Episcopal Chair of Cyzicus. In this diocese, the heresy of the Monothelites prevailed, and the holy bishop had to labor unwearily to uproot from the minds of the people its wicked doctrines. But finally, after three years of toil, he had the joy to see that the Catholic faith reigned victoriously throughout the city. The Emperor Philippicus Bardanes, who greatly favored this heresy, could not endure the zeal of this holy bishop, and banished him from the city. But after he had been expelled from the throne, and Anastasius, a zealous Catholic, wore the crown, Germanus was recalled and elected Patriarch of Constantinople. The joy of the Catholics was exceedingly great when the holy man, after long hesitating, accepted the dignity. Under the Patriarch who had preceded him, many had forsaken the true faith and others had become extremely negligent in the service of the Most High. The former, the holy patriarch, endeavored to lead back into the fold of Christ; the latter, he stimulated to more fervent piety. In both these labors he was blessed by the Almighty with great success. While he was thus promoting the honor of God, a large army of Arabs and Saracens marched against Constantinople and besieged the city. This siege lasted three years, during which time the town was frequently in danger of being taken by the barbarians. The holy Patriarch, who knew that the inhabitants were too weak to hold out much longer against so great a number of enemies, exhorted them to take refuge with God and the Blessed Virgin. He preached daily to them to do penance and thus appease the anger of God. The powerful intercession of the divine Mother he recommended to them with great eloquence, in order to increase their trust in her. When they were informed by some spies, that the barbarians were making ready to storm the city, he ordered a procession, in which he led the people, for three days in succession, around the walls, praying and singing while they carried an image of the Blessed Virgin. The Saracen General, seeing this procession from his camp, and hearing the prayers and hymns of the people, was, by the providence of God, so awed by the spectacle, that he determined to raise the siege and to make peace with the Emperor. Before his retreat, he desired to enter the city as a friend, with a few other officers. When he was under the gate of the city, he felt himself kept back, as if by an invisible hand. Raising his eyes, he saw above the gate an image of the Blessed Virgin, which filled him with such fear, that hastening back to the camp, he withdrew with his army, and taking to his ships, he fled away. All the inhabitants gave thanks to their Patriarch for having thus happily delivered them from the enemy, as it was he who had exhorted them to pray to the Blessed Virgin to intercede for them. Yet, notwithstanding the great favors which the city and the empire owed to the Saint, he was driven from Constantinople and from his Patriarchal Chair, when he had reached the venerable age of 90 years. Leo, the impious Emperor, surnamed the Isaurian, was guilty of this criminal ingratitude. Belonging to the Iconoclasts, or image-breakers, whose wicked works Saint Germanus opposed by word and writing, he had the Saint removed, and banished from the city by a Council of heretical bishops. And thus this holy man ended in misery and banishment the innocent life which had been spent for the welfare of men. Among the Greek Fathers, there is none who has written more in praise of the Blessed Virgin, or who more earnestly exhorted his flock to honor her, than this Saint.

Practical Considerations

Saint Germanus was innocently banished, and died in misery. It is known that many other Saints ended their lives in banishment and in prison and in misery. But it is also known that Saint Germanus, with many others, passed from this earthly misery, into a heavenly home. A servant of God may die anywhere; he always finds his way to heaven. Whereas no matter where a sinner dies, he cannot escape hell. If you live piously, be not concerned whether death takes you here or there from this world; the gates of eternal happiness will be open to you. But if you lead a godless life, be sure that you are nowhere safe from hell, even should you take refuge in the temple of the Lord. You may die in the most holy of all places, and yet go to eternal destruction. Hence, abstain from all sin, wherever you are; as you may die at the place and be lost. And when you find yourself at a place where you have already offended God several times, and you foresee that you will again offend him, leave as quickly as possible, that you may not sin and die there, and be lost for all eternity. Tell me, would you like to die at the place where you so often committed sin, or where you are still perpetrating evil deeds? Certainly not; for, you would descend from that place directly to hell. How dare you then go to that place or remain in it? May you not die there? And if you do, whither will you go? “How dare ‘you live in a place where you would fear to die?” asks Saint Bernard. “If you will commit sin, seek a place where God does not see you,” says Saint Augustine. And I say to you: If you will do wrong, choose a place where you are quite sure that you cannot die. But where will you find it? Surely not on earth. Hence do not sin anywhere.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 11 April 2018. Web. 22 October 2018. <>