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E03492: Gregory of Tours, in his Miracles of Martin (3.8), learns from Florentius, an envoy from Spain passing through Tours in 582, how his grandfather had built a basilica to *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050), and consecrated it with relics of the saint obtained from Tours; and how the grandfather's child had been brought back from the dead after the saint was invoked. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 582/588.

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posted on 24.07.2017, 00:00 by mszada
Gregory of Tours, Miracles of Martin (Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi) 3.8

Gregory entertains Florentius and Exsuperius, two ambassadors to King Chilperic from Spain, who are passing through Tours.

... Florentius, qui erat aetate senior, sollicite flagitat aliqua de beati viri virtute cognoscere. At ego, Deo gratias agens, interrogo si vel nomen eius in illis regionibus audiretur, vel vita illius legeretur ab aliquo. Haec me interrogante, ait in illis locis magnifice honorari nomen eius, sed et se peculiarem alumnum antistis narrat, dicens super se magnam eius virtutem ostensam fuisse. "Avus" iniquit, "meus ante multorum curricula annorum basilicam construxit in honore beati Martini antistis. Perfectaque ac eleganti opere exornata, Turonis clericos religiosos destinavit, expetens reliquias pontificis, ut scilicet locum quem in eius nomine aedificaverat, eius reliquiis consecraret.

' ... Florentius, the older [of the two envoys], earnestly seeks to learn anything of the power of the blessed man. And I, giving thanks to God, ask if his [Martin's] name is heard in those regions, and if his Life is read by anyone. When I ask these things, he says that his name is magnificently honoured in those regions, and recounts that he himself is a special foster child (peculiaris alumnus) of the bishop, saying that his great power had been manifest on him (super se). "My grandfather", he says, "many years ago built a basilica in honour of the blessed bishop Martin. When it was finished and decorated with elegant workmanship, he sent pious clerics to Tours, seeking relics of the bishop, so that he might consecrate with his relics the place that he had built in his name."'

Having done this, the man with his wife prayed every day, and eventually a child was born to them. But when the boy was three months old he fell ill and died. The mother placed the child in front of the altar of the church, and ...

... tamquam si sanctum visibilibus cernerent oculis, avus alloquitur, dicens: "Spes nobis erat maxima, beatissime confessor, tua huc pignora deportare, per quae morbi depellerentur, febres extinguerentur, fugarentur caecitatis tenebrae, et aliae quoque infirmitates emendarentur, pro eo quod de te legantur plurima quae vel vivens feceris, vel post transitum operaris. Nam audivimus te oratione mortuos suscitasse, lepram osculo depulisse, energuminos curasse verbo, venenum digito compressisse, at alia multa fecisse. Hic apparebit virtus tua si et nunc iuxta fidem nostram hunc resuscitaveris parvulum. Quod si non feceris, non hic ultra colla curvabimus, luminaria accendemus, aut alicuius honoris gratiam exhibebimus."

'... as if they could see the saint with their own eyes, my grandfather spoke, saying: "It was our greatest hope, most blessed confessor, to bring here your relics (pignora), through which illnesses would be driven away, fevers extinguished, the shades of blindness put to flight, and all other infirmities cured, because we have read of the many things you did in life, and effected after your passing. For we have heard how through prayer you raised the dead, expelled leprosy with a kiss, cured the possessed with a word, drove out poison with your finger, and did much else besides. Here too your power will be manifest, if, respecting our faith, you revive this little one. But if you do not do this, we will no more bow before you, nor light your lamps, nor show you the grace of any honour."'

Returning the next morning, the parents found the boy cured, and from then on treated the place with yet greater respect. All this Gregory learns from Florentius himself.

Text: Krusch 1969, 184. Translation: Van Dam 1993, 262-263, modified (= de Nie 2015, 675-679).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397 : S00050

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Tours Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory of Tours

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Children Women Aristocrats Other lay individuals/ people Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy

Cult Activities - Relics

Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Unspecified relic


Gregory, of a prominent Clermont family with extensive ecclesiastical connections, was bishop of Tours from 573 until his death (probably in 594). He was the most prolific hagiographer of all Late Antiquity. He wrote four books on the miracles of Martin of Tours, one on those of Julian of Brioude, and two on the miracles of other saints (the Glory of the Martyrs and Glory of the Confessors), as well as a collection of twenty short Lives of sixth-century Gallic saints (the Life of the Fathers). He also included a mass of material on saints in his long and detailed Histories, and produced two independent short works: a Latin version of the Acts of Andrew and a Latin translation of the story of The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. Gregory's Miracles of Martin (full title Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi, 'Books of the Miracles of Saint Martin the Bishop'), consists of four books of miracles, 207 chapters in all, effected by Martin, primarily at his grave and shrine in Tours. Most of them occurred at the time of the saint's festivals, on 4 July and 11 November. Gregory tried to record the miracles in chronological order, so historians have been able to calculate quite precisely the dates of the events and miracles mentioned in the work. This fairly precise chronology has enabled scholars to determine the dates of completion of each book. There have been three main dating schemes proposed for the composition of the four books. The oldest was suggested by Monod in 1872, another by Krusch in 1885, and then one by Van Dam in 1993 (for fuller discussion, see Shaw 2015, 103-105). Their datings of the individual books do not vary substantially, and in our entries we have given only those of Van Dam. Shaw 2015 convincingly demolishes an earlier theory, that Gregory wrote the Miracles in two distinct stages: a first stage that was written during a particular period, and a second stage in the early 590s, in which Gregory revised the whole work. Book 1, with 40 chapters, was written between 573 and 576. In the prologue, Gregory mentions that he started writing after he became bishop of Tours in August 573. Book 1 must have been completed by 576, since Venantius Fortunatus in a letter to Gregory of that year referred to it (Epistula ad Gregorium 2, prefatory letter to Fortunatus' Life of Martin, MGH Auct. ant. 4.1, p. 293). Book 2 consists of 60 chapters. It must have been finished before November 581, because the last miracles it mentions occurred in November 580, while the first ones recorded in Book 3 happened in November 581. Using the same methodology, the completion of Book 3, which also covers 60 chapters, can be dated between 587 and July 588. Book 4, which consists of 47 chapters, seems never to have been completed, presumably because of Gregory’s death. There are two main arguments in support of the idea that it is unfinished. Firstly, Book 4 has no conclusion and no tidy number of chapters, while each of Books 1 to 3 has these elements. Secondly, the last story recorded in Book 4 is not about Gregory himself, unlike the final stories of Books 2 and 3. Book 1 covers miracles that occurred before Gregory’s episcopate in Tours. The next three books are a running chronicle of Martin’s miracles under Gregory’s episcopate. Some of the miracles are recorded in very summary form, while others are much more elaborately presented: because of this, it has been argued that Gregory first jotted down notes, and only subsequently gave the stories full literary treatment (which in some cases, he was never able to do). The three completed books of the Miracles of Martin were probably released as they were completed, rather that published together. In this sense they are the exception amongst Gregory's writings, since the rest of his work was not finally completed and seems to have been unpublished at the time of his death. For discussion of the work, see: Krusch, B. (ed.), Gregorii episcopi Turonensis miracula et opera minora (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 1,2; 2nd ed.; Hannover, 1969), 2–4. Monod, G., Études critiques sur les sources de l’histoire mérovingienne, 1e partie (Paris, 1872), 42–45. Shaw, R., "Chronology, Composition and Authorial Conception in the Miracula," in: A.C. Murray (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden-Boston, 2015), 102–140. Van Dam, R., Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, 1993), 142–146, 199.


Gregory briefly records, in Histories 6.18, the visit to Chilperic of these envoys from Spain, but there neither names them nor mentions their passing through Tours. There is some uncertainty over the identity of the child brought back from the dead. Van Dam, entirely reasonably, since Florentius describes himself as the 'special foster child' of Martin on whom the power of Martin has been manifested, translates the story as if this child was Florentius himself. De Nie, however, rightly points out (De Nie 2015, p.909) that the parents in the story are repeatedly described as a grandfather (avus) and a grandmother (ava). Presumably, although this is not stated, the boy that was saved was Florentius' father; if so, it was through his father's salvation that Florentius had personally benefited from Martin's miraculous power. Unless Florentius invented this story to please his host, it attests to the building of a church to Martin somewhere in Spain earlier in the 6th century and to the obtaining of relics of the saint from Tours for its dedication. Whether or not the grandparents really threatened Martin with reprisals if he did not revive their son, this is an interesting detail. testifying to a belief that the obligations between devoted clients and their saintly patrons were reciprocal and not in one direction only, from client to saint.


Editions and translations: Krusch, B. (ed.), Gregorii episcopi Turonensis miracula et opera minora (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 1,2; 2nd ed.; Hannover, 1969), 134–211. Van Dam, R. (trans.), Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, 1993), 200–303. de Nie, G. (ed. and trans.), Lives and Miracles: Gregory of Tours (Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 39; Cambridge MA, 2015), 421–855. Further reading: Murray, A.C. (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden-Boston, 2015). Shanzer, D., "So Many Saints – So Little Time ... the Libri Miraculorum of Gregory of Tours," Journal of Medieval Latin 13 (2003), 19–63.

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