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Attila the Hun's path through Europe in 451 CE

“In 451…the Huns under their fearsome leader, Attila, crossed the Rhine heading westwards. At Cologne, they were reported to have massacred 11,000 virgins. Parisians prepared for a mass exodus, piling their belongings on to wagons with solid wooden wheels. But a fifteen-year-old orphan girl called Geneviève, who had come close to fasting to death in her convent–like another French teenager nearly a thousand years later–had a vision. She exhorted the populous not to leave, telling them, ‘Get down on your knees and pray! I know it, I see it. The Huns will not come.’ She was proved right… Contemporary wits explained Geneviève’s ‘miracle’ by suggesting that there were not 10,000 virgins in Paris to make it worth Attila’s while. A more likely explanation was that Attila had opted to head for Orleans to deal with his Visigoth foes there.

“Whatever the reasons behind Attila’s deviation, Geneviève’s intercession was rated a miracle. Less successfully she later led the Parisians against the barbarian and pagan Franks. Embodying the spirit of resistance, and living to the ripe old age of ninety, she helped convert the conquering Frankish king, Clovis, and became the patron saint of Paris. ”

Alistair Horne, Seven Ages of Paris, Vintage Books, 2004, pp 3.

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