It’s easy to take things for granted when we see them every week. Let’s take the next couple of weeks to explore the Saints of St. Mary’s Basilica found in our stained glass windows. Together let’s rediscover our saintly companions on our journey of faith. Today we visit St. Genevieve.
Who is St. Genevieve?
A virgin, Genevieve is one of the most popular of French saints; she was also one of the most remarkable women of the Middle Ages. She joined a convent at 15, but her cloistered state could not conceal her sanctity, and Paris turned to her in times of crises. She helped lead a successful resistance to a Frankish siege, and later led the prayers that were credited with turning aside Attila the Hung’s march on Paris. She was buried at Sts. Peter and Paul, where miracles made the site a point of pilgrimage. In 1129, the procession of her relics through Paris is believed to have ended an epidemic. St. Genevieve is still invoked by the French in times of crises.
Saints and their Attributes
Artists have developed standard ways of representing saints, allowing their images to be ‘read’ to reveal their identities. Artists often show saints with particular symbols, known as attributes. These attributes are reminders of how a saint was martyred, while others recall important actions or events from their life. Through attributes we are able to identify the saints and tell their stories.
What are St. Genevieve attributes?
St. Genevieve is often shown as a shepherdess, usually holding a candle/torch, as in the example of St. Mary’s Basilica stained glass window. The lamb also appears as a symbol of virtue the person represented was noted for, such as, Innocence, Meekness, Patience, Purity. The lamb as an attribute is also found accompanying St. Agnes, St. Catherine, St. Regina and St. John.
Holding a Candlestick:
Over time, St. Genevieve became famous for her sanctity. Geneviève loved to pray in church alone at night. One day a gust of wind blew out her candle, leaving her in the dark, but she merely concluded that the devil was trying to frighten her. For this reason Geneviève is often depicted holding a candle, sometimes with an irritated devil standing near.
Patron Saint of:
Tradition Prayer to St. Genevieve:
Saint Genevieve, you who by the days before,
penance and prayer ensured the protection
of Paris, intercede near God for us, for our
country, for the devoted Christian hearts.
You, who cured the sick and fed the hungry,
obtain the light of God and make us
stronger to reject temptation.
You, who had the concern of the poor,
protect the sick, the abandoned,
and the unemployed.
You, who resisted the armies
and encouraged the besieged,
give us the direction for truth and justice.
You, who through the centuries never
ceased taking care of your people,
help us to keep the teachings
of our Lord Jesus Christ.
May your example be for us,
an encouragement to always seek God
and serve him through
our brothers and sisters.
To schedule a group docent tour to explore the history, architecture, art, sacred symbols and mission of St. Mary’s Basilica please contact us.