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E00003: Gregory of Tours writes a joint Life of *Lupicinus and Romanus (brothers and founders of the Jura monasteries, mid 5th c., S00003): it tells of their foundation of monasteries in the Jura mountains (eastern Gaul), presenting Lupicinus as strictly ascetic, Romanus as mild and forgiving. From Gregory's Life of the Fathers, written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 573/594. Overview of Gregory's Life of Lupicinus and Romanus.

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posted on 2020-02-13, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Gregory of Tours, Life of the Fathers, Book 1 (Life of Lupicinus and Romanus)


Preface: The brothers Lupicinus and Romanus both used well the talents lent them by God.

§ 1: Both brothers shunned matrimony and withdrew from the world, into the wilderness of the Jura. There they were tormented by the attacks of demons, and eventually decided to give up and leave the wilderness. However they changed their minds when they were enjoined to persevere by a poor woman.

§ 2: On their return to the wilderness they attracted followers and founded monasteries, first at Condat (Condadisco) and then at two other places, with Lupicinus as abbot over them all. Lupicinus was a strict ascetic, often eating only once every three days, and able even to avoid drinking water by absorbing it through his hands. He was severe in punishing his monks. He avoided all contact with women. Romanus was much milder and blessed both men and women.

§ 3: God revealed to Lupicinus a place where a treasure was hidden, which he used to sustain his community. On one occasion he visited one of the monasteries and found a sumptuous meal being prepared. Disapproving of such luxury, he ordered the dishes to be thrown into a cauldron and mixed up together before they were served. Angered by this, twelve monks left the monastery. Romanus, at the main monastery, learned of this by a revelation. He reproached Lupicinus for driving the men out of the monastery; Lupicinus insisted he had separated the wheat from the chaff. Romanus prayed for God to forgive the twelve men, and in response to his prayers all twelve repented and went on to found their own monasteries.

§ 4: Once, when Romanus was travelling, he sheltered in a house inhabited by nine lepers. First washing their feet and then sharing their bed, by touching one of them, he transmitted healing progressively to them all.

§ 5: When an old man, Lupicinus visited King Chilperic [of the Burgundians] in Geneva. His arrival at the king's residence made the royal throne shake, so that Chilperic thought an earthquake had occurred. When Lupicinus requested assistance from the king to help feed and clothe his monks, Chilperic, shaken by the display of miraculous power, granted him an annual gift of wheat, wine, and money for clothing.

§ 6: When their death approached, the brothers chose where to be buried: Lupicinus in the church of his monastery, but Romanus outside the monastery, so that all, including women, could come to his tomb. Many are still cured there [see $E00004].

Text: Krusch 1969, 213-218. Summary: Marta Tycner.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Romanus and Lupicinus, brothers and founders of the Jura monasteries, mid 5th c. : S00003

Saint Name in Source

Lupicinus, Romanus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives



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

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Changing abilities and properties of the body Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money) Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Monarchs and their family Demons Monarchs and their family


Gregory, bishop of Tours from 573 until his death (probably in 594), 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. The Life of the Fathers by Gregory of Tours is different from his other hagiographical works (Miracles of Julian, Miracles of Martin, Glory of the Confessors and Glory of the Martyrs), which all concentrate on posthumous miracles of the saints. The Life of the Fathers, by contrast, describes the exemplary behaviour in life of twenty Gallic saints (for a list of the Lives, see E05870). Gregory himself draws this contrast in the opening words of his preface: 'I had decided to write only about what has been achieved with divine help at the tombs of the blessed martyrs and confessors; but I have recently discovered information about those who have been raised to heaven by the merit of their blessed conduct here below, and I thought that their way of life, which is known to us through reliable sources, could strengthen the Church' (trans. James 1991, 1). In this preface Gregory also explains why he chose to call the book Life of the Fathers, not Lives of the Fathers: because they all lived the same bodily life. The nineteen Lives of men, and the single Life of a woman (Life 19), all relate to holy people of Gaul, the majority living in the mid to later sixth century. Although this agenda is unspoken, there can be little doubt that Gregory wrote these Lives partly to show that holiness, and the miraculous, were not just things of the past, but very much present within the Gaul of his day (a message that he expressed explicitly in his Histories). Almost all the saints he describes were active within one or other of the two dioceses with which Gregory was most familiar (his native Clermont, and Tours, the city of his episcopate), or indeed were his relatives (all bishops - Life 6 is of an uncle, Life 7 of a great-grandfather, and Life 8 of a great-uncle). Although Gregory says in his preface that they all shared one bodily life, in reality his saints fall into one of two distinct categories: holy bishops who are effective leaders of their flocks but only moderately ascetic (Lives 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 17), and holy ascetics who have withdrawn from the world and sometimes engage in extreme mortification of the body (Lives 1, 3, 5, 9-16, and 18-20). Gregory's work was unquestionably didactic in purpose - teaching the correct way to lead a good Christian life, and it is notable, for instance, how, in this work written by a bishop, his ascetics accept episcopal correction when necessary (Lives 15.2 and 20.3, in both cases from Gregory himself), and might even delay their death to suit the timetable of a bishop (Life 10.4). Because the focus is on the lives of these holy people, there is much less emphasis on their cult after death than in Gregory's other hagiographical works; however, all the Lives close with an account of the burial of the saint, and in almost all cases with reference to posthumous miracles recorded there (the exceptions are Lives 10, 11 and 20, which have no reference to miracles at the tomb). Gregory probably collected material for the Life of the Fathers (and perhaps wrote individual Lives) over a long period of time. However, from the words of his preface (quoted above) and from other references within the text, it is evident that he assembled his material into the polished work we have today only towards the very end of his life, after he had already written much of his extensive hagiography recording the miracles of saints lying in their graves. Because Gregory's views on saints do not seem to have changed during his writing life, we have not here expended energy in exploring the possible dating of individual lives, merely recording them all as written some time between 573 and 594. For more on the text, and on its dating: James 1991, xiii-xix; Shaw 2015, particularly 117-120.


Gregory's Life of Lupicinus and Romanus is the first book (and so the first Life) included in his Life of the Fathers (for which, see above). The story of the two brothers, as cast by Gregory, is that of two ascetics who took different paths in their asceticism – one very strict, the other more forgiving of human frailty. For Gregory, both brothers are saints, though Romanus (the mild brother) comes out of the story rather better than his brother. Gregory's Life of Lupicinus and Romanus shares many elements in common with the anonymous Life of the Jura Fathers (Vita patrum Iurensium), written in around 520 (which has several entries in this database), but also differs from it in important details, in particular: a) Gregory's text implies that Lupicinus was the elder brother, and consistently depicts him as taking the leading role in the Jura communities. The Life of the Jura Fathers depicts Romanus as the elder, and claims that he alone founded the first Jura community, only later being joined by Lupicinus. Gregory also depicts their deaths as being more or less contemporaneous, when in fact Lupicinus outlived Romanus by possibly as much as twenty years (Romanus died in the period 455/461, Lupicinus in the mid 470s). b) In the version of the story of the gluttonous monks that appears in the Life of the Jura Fathers (§§ 36-40), Romanus and Lupicinus are depicted as acting in unison. The gluttonous monks simply leave the monastery, and do not subsequently repent. c) In the Life of the Jura Fathers Romanus heals two lepers, not nine. Unlike Gregory's account, that in the Life also gives the location of the event (Geneva), and considerable detail about the circumstances: see E05903. d) In the Life of the Jura Fathers (§§ 92-95), Lupicinus visits Chilperic to protest against the oppression of the poor by one of his officials; the author mentions only in passing that Chilperic bestowed gifts on the monastery. The account contains no miraculous elements. It is clear that Gregory was not familiar with the Life of the Jura Fathers. Apart from the differences outlined above, and the many incidents in the earlier work to which Gregory simply makes no reference, one might have expected that if Gregory had known the Life, he would have said something about its third protagonist, Eugendus, who in fact is never mentioned anywhere in his works. Whatever source was used by Gregory, it clearly overlapped with the Life of the Jura Fathers, since the two works not only share common incidents, but sometimes even verbal echoes (see e.g. James 1991, 7, n. 8),though there is a clear tendency for Gregory's versions of common incidents to contain less specific detail and more stereotyped and miraculous elements. The most recent editor of the Life of the Jura Fathers, François Martine, suggested that either Gregory 'used a very poor and unreliable summary of VPJ or else that the two authors had access to the same old and brief account of the two monastic founders' (Martine 1968, 73; trans. James 1991, 4, n. 1).


Edition: Krusch, B., Gregorii Turonensis Opera. 2: Miracula et opera minora (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum I.2; 2nd ed.; Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 1969). Translation: James, E., Gregory of Tours. Life of the Fathers (Translated Texts for Historians 1; 2nd ed.; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1991). de Nie, G., Gregory of Tours, Lives and Miracles (Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 39; Cambridge MA, 2015). Further reading: Martine, F., Vie des pères du Jura (Sources Chrétiennes 142; Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 1968). 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.

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