Born at Nanterre, Genevieve (or Genofeva) took the veil at the age of about fifteen. On the death of her parents she moved to Paris, where she continued her chosen life of prayer and austerity. She was supported by Germanus of Auxerre, who had apparently known her from her childhood. When the Franks under Childeric beseiged Paris, Genevieve is said to have personally made a sortie with an armed band to obtain provisions by river from Arcis and Troyes. She won Childeric’s respect, and she was permitted to build a church in honor of Saint Denys (Dionysius), a bishop of Paris. Clovis, the Frankish king who converted to the catholic Christian faith and united the various Frankish kingdoms of Gaul, also held her in great respect and is said to have released prisoners at her request. Genevieve is said to have encouraged the Parisians to avert the coming of Attila and his Huns by frequent prayer and fasting, and indeed, the Huns changed the route of their march, and Paris was spared.
After her death Genevieve was buried in the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, later known as Saint Genevieve’s, built by Clovis. Miracles associated with her and her cult made the church famous. The fabric eventually decayed, and a new church was begunin 1746, but was secularized at the Revolution and called (as it is to this day) the Pantheon, a burial place for the worthies of France.
She is the patroness of Paris, whose citizens have invoked her over and over again in times of crisis. Several churches were dedicated to her in medieval England, where at least five abbeys celebrated her feast. She is commemorated on January 3.
- Adapted from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of your servant Genevieve, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at last we may with him attain to your eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The icon of Saint Genevieve is taken from the icons webpage of Orthodox England (the Orthodox Church of Saint John the Wonderworker, Felixstowe, England).