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Saint Genevieve

Patroness of Paris

Saint Genevieve

Genevieve was born at Nanterre, a small village about eight miles from Paris, around 422. Legend says her family was of the peasant class, but other sources say her family had some wealth and influence. What is not disputed, however, is that she had decided upon a course of chastity and charity by the age of nine. In 429, St. Germain of Auxerre came to her village and, after speaking with Genevieve, told her parents that she would lead a life of sanctity and by her example and instruction bring many virgins to consecrate themselves to God.

Upon the death of her parents Genevieve went to live with a godmother in Paris, where she remained the rest of her life. It is unclear when she took her vows, but she did indeed fulfill Germain's prediction; the bishop of Paris appointed her to look after the welfare of virgins who had dedicated themselves to God. At one time neighbors accused Genevieve of being a hypocrite and imposter, but Germain silenced the critics by sending her some blessed bread.

In 451, as Attila the Hun bore down on Paris, Genevieve encouraged the city's residents to hope and trust in God, and urged them to do works of penance. Paris listened, and Attila ultimately turned his horde towards Orleans, bypassing Paris. Several years later Clovis took Paris. During the siege Genevieve distinguished herself by her charity and self-sacrifice; through her influence, Clovis displayed amazing clemency towards the citizenry.

It was because of Genevieve that a church dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul was begun by Clovis about 511. Genevieve died in 512, and her remains and relics were interred at the church after its completion.

Saint Genevieve's relics have been responsible for two major Paris miracles. In 834, the city was saved from complete inundation after the relics were honored. In 1129, a violent plague killed over 14,000 people, before a procession of relics was performed in Saint Genevieve's honor; those who were sick before the procession suddenly got well, and no other deaths or illnesses were reported thereafter.

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This page was last updated on July 13, 2017.