Wednesday, April 1, 2015

14 Artworks depicting the story of St. Genevieve of Paris (422-512) - “Defender of Paris.”

Puvis de Chavannes. "L'Enfance de Sainte Geneviève" (detailles), 1876 - 1878

St. Genevieve (422-512), was born at Nanterre, a village on the outskirts of Paris, during the time of Attila the Hun. She was a shepherdess, the only child of Severus and Gerontia, hardworking peasants. She was seven years old when Saint Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, was visiting the village with Saint Lupus, on their way to great Britain to combat the heresy of Pelagius. Seeing Genevieve in the crowd, Bishop St. Germain laid his hands on her head, and asked if she wanted to give herself to the Lord. Genevieve said “Yes!” Her mother opposed her decision, which angered Genevieve tremendously. Genevieve’s mother was struck blind until she was forgiven by her daughter. Taking a gold coin from his purse, Saint Germanus gave it to her, telling her to keep it always as a reminder of that day and of God to whom her life belonged.

St. Genevieve was a shepherdess
Sainte Genevieve watching over her flock protected by a stone circle. When she did not destroy these prehistoric megaliths, the Church tried to Christianize the symbols "diabolic"

Charles Sprague Pearce 1851 - 1914 Sainte-Geneviève

On the deaths of her parents, she went to live with her godmother Lutetia in Paris, where she became a nun and dedicated herself to a Christian life. (Coincidentally, "Lutetia" was the former name of the city of Paris). She experienced visions and prophecies, which initially evoked hostility from Parisians--to the point that an attempt was made to take her life. But the support of Germanus, who visited her again, and the accuracy of her predictions eventually changed their attitudes. (Germanus also corrected some of her harsher penances during this visit.)

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) - Saints Genevieve

She loved to pray in church alone at night. One day a gust of wind blew out her candle, leaving her in the dark. Geneviève merely concluded that the devil was trying to frighten her. For this reason she is often depicted holding a candle, sometimes with an irritated devil standing near.

Saint Genevieve, Defender of Paris, seventeenth-century painting, Musée Carnavalet, Paris

In 451, When Attila the Hun approached Paris, with the help of Germanus' archdeaconshe upbraided the panic-stricken people of Paris who wanted to leave town. She reassured the people that they had the protection of heaven. Many of the inhabitants lost heart and fled in panic, but Geneviève again gathered the women around her, and led them out on to the ramparts of the city, where in the morning light and in the face of the spears of the enemy they prayed to God for deliverance.  Providentially, the same night, the invader turned south to Orleans. 

St. Genevieve Bringing Supplies to the City of Paris after the Siege  - Pierre Puvis de Chavannes

When Childeric I ( 440 – 481/482) (A Merovingian king of the Salian Franks)  besieged the Paris in 464 and conquered it, she acted as an intermediary between the city and its conqueror.  

St. Geneviève

Geneviève took a boat and rowed out alone (more likely at the head of a company) upon the river into the darkness to Arcis-sur-Aube and Troyes. She slipped silently and secretly past the lines of the enemy, landing at dawn far outside the city, where she went from village to village imploring help and gathering food, and returned to Paris--again successfully evading the enemy--with eleven boatloads of precious corn. (Other sources say that nightly she captained eleven barges to collect grain in the Champagne region.)

François Louis Dejuinne (1786-1844)-Clovis roi des Francs (465-511)

On the death of Childeric, his son Clovis succeeded him and consolidated control of the land from the Rhine to the Loire.( c. 466 – c. 511) (The first king to unite all of the Frankish tribes under one ruler. He is considered the founder of the Merovingian dynasty c. 466 – c. 511) was the first king of the Franks to unite all of the Frankish tribes under one ruler. He is considered the founder of the Merovingian dynasty.) He married Childeric's elder daughter, Clothilde. 

Chapelle Sainte-Geneviève "Sainte Clotilde urging Clovis before the battle" by Pierre-Louis Delaval (1818)

Geneviève became his trusted counsellor. Clovis entered a harsh battle and promised to be baptized, if he should win. He won and under the influence of Geneviève, he converted in 496. His people and servants followed suit.

The Baptism of Clovis, painted around 1500 by Master of Saint Giles. Clovis (d. 511)

By the time she died King Clovis of the Franks had grown to venerate the saint. It was at Geneviève's suggestion that Clovis began to build the church of SS. Peter and Paul in the middle of Paris, where they interred her body. Later the church was renamed Sainte Geneviève and it was rebuilt in 1746.

Church of St. Genevieve, Paris

Miracles performed at her tomb made her and the Church famous all over France:

Gabriel François Doyen (1726 † 1806): St. Genevieve altarpiece miracle des Ardens - Church of St. Roch, Paris

Miracle des Ardens or burning fever (ergot-poisoning) in 1129. Bishop Stephen of Paris had her shrine carried through the streets in solemn procession. Many thousands of the sick who saw or touched the shrine were immediately cured, and only several deaths from the plague were said to have occurred thereafter.

Portrait of King Louis XV by Maurice Quentin de La Tour 1748

In 1741, Louis XV came to her church to thank her for a cure wrought at her intercession.

"Prise de la Bastille" (1789), by Jean-Pierre-Louis-Laurent Houel

When the Bastille was taken, people again came to thank her. In 1790, the Commune went to her church for Mass.

More at: AntiochianSt. Patrick's Catholic ChurchWikipedia