Posted by: anna | August 12, 2009

St Germanus & Ven. Neot

St. Germanus, bishop of Auxerre (448) (Celtic & British).
The icon is by the hand of Aidan Hart.

Both these saints are commemorated tomorrow, not today, but tomorrow is the Forefeast of the Procession of the Precious and Life-giving Cross of the Lord and the Eve of the Dormition Fast, so – as there are no British saints on the calendar for today – I will think about them today.

St Germanus (Herman, Germain) of Auxerre (5th century). Another highly capable man of action, and of many parts: lawyer, provincial governor, bishop, ecclesiastical rhetorician, military leader. His story is one of the intersection of power politics of the secular and ecclesiastical realms. He was sent with St Lupus (St Lupus???) to Britain to combat the Pelagian heresy. This all seems to have been bound up with keeping post-Roman Britain somehow loyal to the central church, or at least preventing it from going too much its own way, which with Celtic Christianity was always a risk felt by Rome – as we shall see in a little while when I finally investigate the Synod of Whitby for St Hilda’s feast. Germanus’ relics are kept at the Abbey of Saint-Germain d’Auxerre in Auxerre (Burgundy). There is an Orthodox parish with a dedication to St Stephen and St Germain of Auxerre at Vezelay in France, one of the historic starting points of the pilgrim way to Santiago de Compostela.

St Neot of Cornwall (9th century) strikes me as a pattern for Ellis Peters’ character Cadfael – he gave up a soldier’s life to become a monk, and spent the rest of his life caring for the poor. His Life is rather confusing. Another holy man who dared rebuke a king, Neot advised Alfred the Great, who may have been his brother. Or his nephew. Who was a military leader before entering monastic life? He is supposed to have been a very meek and mild man who modeled his own behaviour on the individual virtues of his fellows, visited Rome seven times, retreated to a solitary hermitage in the wilderness, and emerged from it to build a monastery. He became one of the Monks of Bodmin Moor (still a place for, er, independent characters). And how did a town in Cambridgeshire acquire his name? well guess what, Wikipedia has an answer for that too – monks carrying out that honourable and popular monastic activity (ahem) of relic pinching. Unfortunately I can’t (yet) find an icon or indeed any representation of St Neot, but there is lots more lore about St Neot here and here.

I am impressed yet again by the distance and frequency of saints’ travels in the early Christian centuries. There is a popular misconception that people simply didn’t travel in the Middle Ages. Well, quite possibly most people didn’t go very far – after all it was time-consuming and expensive. Think how many days it would take to ride a horse on unpaved roads from, say, Cornwall to Cambridge. But that was generally true for nearly everybody up until the advent of trains, and those medieval people who did travel, and they were by no means restricted to the rich and famous, travelled astonishingly widely and often. Another e-resource for western saints: a very very comprehensive calendar!

Holy Saint Germanus and Saint Neot, pray to God for us.



  1. I agree, I am a historical fiction reader – and really, historical personages travelled all over the place (mostly if they had money). Very good point.

    Holy Saints, pray to God for us.

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