When Attila was reported to be marching on Paris, the inhabitants of the city prepared to evacuate, but St. Genevieve persuaded them to avert the scourge by fasting and prayer, assuring them of the protection of Heaven. The event verified the prediction, for the barbarian suddenly changed the course of his march.
The life of St. Genevieve was one of great austerity, constant prayer, and works of charity. She died in the year 512.
She dressed in a long flowing gown with a mantle covering her shoulders, similar to the type of garments the Blessed Mother wore. One of the symbols of this saint is a loaf of bread because she was so generous to those in need.
Clovis I founded an abbey where Genevieve might minister, and where she herself was later buried. Under the care of the Benedictines, who established a monastery there, the church witnessed numerous miracles wrought at her tomb. St Genevieve was canonized and the church was rededicated in her name. People enriched the church with their gifts. In 847 it was plundered by the Vikings and was partially rebuilt, but was completed only in 1177.
In 1129, when the city was suffering from an epidemic of ergot poisoning, this "burning sickness" was stayed after St Genevieve's relics were carried in a public procession. The saint's relics were carried in procession yearly to the cathedral; Mme de Sévigné gave a description of the pageant in one of her letters. The relief from the epidemic is still commemorated in the churches of Paris.
After the old church fell into decay, Louis XV ordered a new church worthy of the patron saint of Paris; he entrusted the Marquis of Marigny with the construction. The marquis gave the commission to his protégé Jacques-Germain Soufflot, who planned a neo-classical design. After Soufflot's death, the church was completed by his pupil, Jean-Baptiste Rondelet.
The Revolution broke out before the new church was dedicated. It was taken over in 1791 by the National Constituent Assembly and renamed the Panthéon, to be a burial place for distinguished Frenchmen. It became an important monument in Paris.
Though the relics of St Genevieve had been publicly burnt at the Place de Grève in 1793, the Panthéon was restored to Catholic purposes in 1821. In 1831 it was secularized again as a national mausoleum, but restored to the Catholic Church in 1852. Though the Communards had dispersed the relics, in 1885 the Catholic Church reconsecrated the structure to St. Geneviève. Today the Panthéon serves both liturgical and secular functions.
Her feast day is January 3rd.