Posted by: anna | September 29, 2009

St Genevieve, eldress and wonderworker of Paris

AP was kind enough to introduce me to the patron saint of Paris, who seems to have been the sort Peck’s Bad Boy would have called ‘a girl with plenty of sand.’ Her feast falls in January but this is certainly an appropriate time to find out more about her. The following comes from Miss Dunbar’s Dictionary of Women Saints.

St. Genevieve (1), Jan. 3 (GENOVEVA, GERVEVE), V. of Paris. 421-c. 501. Patron of France and of Paris, Nanterre, Puisieux, Rosny, near Vincennes, of fields and harvests, and against fever. Represented (1) holding a spade ; (2) with keys, because the gates of Paris opened to her when locked by order of Childeric, and because she prevented the Parisians from forsaking the city when threatened by Attila ; (3) with a candle in one hand, keys in the other, the devil with bellows in hand crouching near her.

One night, after the departure of Attila from Paris, St. Genevieve went to the cathedral with one candle to guide her. She let herself in with the key, and went to the altar to pray. The devil blew out her candle, thinking she would be too frightened to go on with her devotions, but she knelt down and prayed undisturbed by his interference. Suddenly all the lamps in the church began burning, and the devil fled. St. Genevieve was born at Nanterre, near Paris, and was the daughter of peasants, Severus and Gerontia. She was early remarkable for her piety and modesty, and was encouraged therein by St. Germain and St. Loup, who first saw her when on their way to root out the Pelagian heresy in Britain. St. Germain counselled her to make a vow of virginity, and gave her a little coin with a cross on it, charging her to wear it always, and no other ornament, ‘Lest,’ said he, ‘by thinking too much of even the least ornament of this world, you should miss those which are eternal.’ Soon after the visit of the saints, Genevieve one day insisted on going to church instead of feeding her father s goats. Gerontia, exasperated by her obstinacy, struck her, and was herself instantly stricken blind. Genevieve dutifully attended her mother for some years, and finally her restoration to night was granted miraculously to the prayers of the young saint.

At the death of her parents she went to live in Paris with her godmother, and was there the subject of calumny and jealousy. At the age of thirty-one she founded the Priory of St. Denis now called Les Haudriettes that other young women like herself might have a refuge from the persecutions and seductions of the world. She wrought a miracle to save her first nun, ST. CILINIA (1), from the pursuit of a lover.

About 482, Attila, king of the Huns, surnamed ‘the Scourge of God’ invaded France, and threatened to besiege Paris. The principal inhabitants prepared to leave the city, but Genevieve entreated them not to do so, and, in spite of much opposition, persuaded the ladies of Paris to resort to the churches and spend the time in prayer, vigils, and fasting. Attila not only renounced his plan of laying siege to Paris, but sustained a complete defeat from the combined armies of the Romans, Franks, and Goths.

Mérovée, king of the Franks, and his son Childeric, soon afterwards besieged and took Paris. St. Genevieve, who was then at Troyes, succeeded in taking provisions to the famished Parisians during the siege. She was treated with great respect and consideration by the conquerors. It is related that several persons being condemned to death, Childeric, fearing the influence of St. Genevieve, went out of the city, and had the gates locked and guarded to prevent her coming to intercede for the prisoners. On her approach, however, the gates opened of themselves, which fact in creased Childeric s respect for her, although he was not converted to Christianity. Genevieve became the friend of his son Clovis, also of ST. CLOTILDA his wife, who erected a church to her memory.
St. Simon Stylites once sent to ask Genevieve to pray for him. Many miracles are recorded of her. When the workmen were building her church in honour of St. Denis, they wanted wine. Genevieve sent for the empty cup, made the sign of the cross over it, and it was full. She restored to life a child who was drowned, and to sight a man who was struck blind for working on Sunday. Soon after her death she was chosen patron saint of Paris. In 1120 there was a plague in Paris, called the holy fire, of which numbers died. The bones of the saint were taken up and carried in procession to the principal church of the city. No sooner had they arrived at the gate than all the sick were made well except three, who perhaps had not sufficient faith. The chapel of Ste. Genevieve des Ardens, built to commemorate this miraculous cure, was demolished in 1747.

The church of St-Etienne-du-Mont in Paris is obviously dedicated to St Stephen, but stands on the site of the ancient abbey dedicated to Genevieve, and is still devoted to her. There is also an Orthodox parish in Paris dedicated to Our Lady Joy of those who Sorrow and St Genevieve. The images on this page all come from the All-Merciful Saviour Western Saints icons project.

Sainte Geneviève, priez pour nous!



  1. I've always loved her name, but didn't know her hagiography, thank you!

    and, I think it is sad that more of the Jennifers who convert don't take her name.

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