It is believed that Germanus was born in Capua sometime in the 470s. After his father’s death, he sold his inheritance with his mother’s blessing in order to devote himself to the ascetic life.
When on the death of Bishop Alexander, the Capuans elected him their bishop. Germanus at first refused before being persuaded to accept. Shortly after his election, he was made a member of the legation sent by Pope Hormisdas to the court of the Emperor Justin I in Constantinople, to negotiate an end to the Acacian schism between the western and eastern churches.
The delegation consisted of Germanus, the Alexandrian deacon Dioscorus, a bishop named John, a Roman deacon named Felix, a Roman priest named Blandus and a notary named Peter. They gathered in Rome between January and March 519.
In the Liber pontificalis and the letters of Pope Hormisdas, Germanus is always named first, indicating that he was the leader of the group. This was the third time such a delegation had tried to heal the rift in the Church since 482. This one would be successful, enjoying the support of the Ostrogothic king Theoderic and of the new emperor and patriarch in Constantinople.
They were met by Justinian 10 miles outside of Constantinople. On the April 22, 519, the population of the city received them with cheering. They met the emperor and separately the Senate on the Monday of Holy Week. On Thursday, they met with the emperor, Senate and patriarch all at once in the Palace to present the libellus Hormisdae, the document entrusted to them by the pope outlining his conditions for the healing of the schism. The conditions were accepted.
Germanus and his colleagues remained in the east for another year securing the acceptance of the libellus outside of Constantinople. On July 9, 520, the emperor wrote to Pope Hormisdas to commend his legates. The Liber pontificalis credited Germanus with deftly handling the Theopaschite controversy, the calculation of the date of Easter and the reintegration of bishops deposed by the Emperor Anastasius I.
We know little of Germanus’s life after that important mission. His death probably came early in 541. An inscription gives the start of his successor Victor’s pontificate in that year.
After his death, Germanus was venerated as a saint in southern Italy throughout the early Middle Ages. When Count Lando I of Capua relocated the city of Capua in 849, Germanus’s body was moved with it. In late 873, following a campaign against the Arabs harassing Capua, the Emperor Louis II of Italy took some of Germanus’s relics to Monte Cassino.
The village at the foot of the hill, ancient Casinum, became known as San Germano. The Empress Engelberga took another part of his relics to endow the monastery of San Sisto that she founded in Piacenza in 874.
Adapted by A.J. Valentini