Friday, January 17, 2014

Saint of the Month: St. Genulfus

St. Genulfus

AKA: St. Genou
Not to be Confused With: St. Gengulphus
Feast Day: January 17.

Really Existed? Just possibly, but I have my doubts.
Timeframe: The 200s.
Place: France.

Credentials: Recognized by tradition in both Western and Eastern Christianity.
Martyrdom: None.

Patron Saint of: the parish church of Quantilly, in Central France.
Symbolism: No artistic tradition that I could find.

It’s the feast day of St. Genulfus! Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t have it on your calendar, because Genulfus is definitely what you might call a minor league religious figure. My modest print library of hagiography mentions him not at all and, alas, he doesn’t even have (as of today) his own page on the English-language Wikipedia.

He does, however, show up twice in that open-source wonder-book of our times. On the page for “January 17 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)” he shares this bullet point:
  • “Saints Genulfus (Genou) and Genitus, two monks who lived in Celle-sur-Naton in France (c. 3rd century)”

And on the page for “Roman Catholic Diocese of Cahors,” he gets a share of this paragraph (which is a cut-and-paste from The Catholic Encyclopedia):
“A legend written about the year 1000 by the monks of Saint-Genou Abbey (in the Diocese of Bourges) relates that Genitus and his son Genulfus were sent to Gaul by Pope Sixtus II (257-59), and that Genulfus (Genou) was the first Bishop of Cahors. But Louis Duchesne repudiated this as legend.”

And, we’re not going to get a whole lot further than that. Catholic Online, along with a number of other sources, has this wording on Genulfus and Genitus:
Two monks, father and son, sent from Rome to evangelize France. They became hermits at Cellessur Nahon, France, attracting disciples. Genulfus may have been the first bishop of Canors.

Thomas Meyrick’s 1878 “Lives of the Early Popes” gives St. Genulfus most of a sentence: “[Sixtus II] made Genulfus, the son of Genitus, a Roman, bishop, and sent him with legatine powers as a missioner to Gaul; and Fleury says he made Peregrinus Bishop of Auxerre.” This isn’t as impressive as it might seem, however, for there is very little indeed known about the first couple of centuries of the nascent Papacy.  To put together a biographical sketch of Sixtus II, Meyrick was of necessity grasping at whatever straws were available.

The breakthrough moment in St. Genulfus studies, for me, was finding a fairly fleshed-out page on the French Wiki under his alternative, or perhaps simply French, name: “St. Genou.” The machine translation, distractingly, refers to Genulfus as “Saint Knee,” but if you overlook this you can pick out a few potentially factual nuggets. For instance, what think we know about Genulfus and Genitus is based on two versions of a hagiography or “life” written by Benedictine monks in the tenth and eleventh centuries – written at a remove of more than 700 years after the putative facts, in other words. According to this life, Genitus evangelized a city, possibly Cahors, before coming to the Berry district and driving out its demons. He had a substantial cult in the Middle Ages, and is apparently still commemorated in a handful of churches and chapels in France. Historical artwork and even relics may be extant. He is perhaps best commemorated in the delightfully boxy Abbatiale Saint-Genou de Saint-Genou in the Commune of Saint-Genou, in the Indre district of Central France, shown here:

And that seems to be the available knowledge regarding Saint Genulfus! Enjoy his feast day, which as you might expect, he shares with his dad.

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