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E00039: Gregory of Tours writes the Life of *Gallus (bishop of Clermont, ob. 551, S00034): it presents the saint as a man of exceptional patience, who protects Clermont (central Gaul) from fire, earthquake and plague; many miracles occur at his funeral and thereafter. From Gregory's Life of the Fathers, written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 573/594. Overview of Gregory's Life of Gallus.

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posted on 2014-09-15, 00:00 authored by CSLA Admin
Gregory of Tours, Life of the Fathers, Book 6 (Life of Gallus of Clermont)


Preface: Gallus, though born rich and noble in Clermont, exemplifies the rejection of ambition and wealth in favour of the service of God.

§ 1: Gallus was as nobly born as anyone, and of the family of Vettius Epagatus (one of the Martyrs of Lyon). Rejecting the marriage that was expected of him, he entered the monastery of Cournon (near Clermont).

§ 2: He was taken from the monastery and educated by bishop Quintianus of Clermont. He enjoyed the favour of King Theuderic and his wife (among other things, thanks to his beautiful voice) and travelled with them to Cologne where he burned down a pagan temple.

§ 3: On the death of Quintianus, Gallus was made bishop of Clermont by Theuderic.

§ 4: As bishop he was remarkable for his patience, even when provoked. He predicted correctly that one of his detractors would never become a bishop.

§ 5: He was able to alter the singing voice of a presumptuous deacon.

§ 6: A sick priest who slept under the covers of Gallus' bed was cured. During a fire in Clermont he extinguished the flames by approaching them. An earthquake in the city killed no-one. During the plague, an angel assured him that the people of Clermont would be spared for as long as he lived, and that this would be for eight years. He instituted Rogations, and led a procession on foot to the shrine of Julian at Brioude [see $E00043].

§ 7: He foretold the day of his death. Many miracles happened at his funeral and afterwards [see $E00048].

Text: Krusch 1969, 229-236. Summary: Marta Tycner.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Gallus, bishop of Clermont (Gaul), ob. 551 : S00034

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint


  • Latin

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 - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Punishing miracle Healing diseases and disabilities Changing abilities and properties of the body

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Monarchs and their family Pagans

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - saint’s possession and clothes


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 Gallus is the sixth book (and so the sixth Life) included by him in his Life of the Fathers (for which, see above). Gallus, bishop of Clermont was the uncle of Gregory of Tours, as can be stated on the basis of information given by Gregory in the Life and elsewhere (James 1991, 33). His predecessor as bishop of Clermont, *Quintianus, also had his life written by Gregory (E00036). Compared to other saints described in the Life of the Fathers, Gallus stands out for the number of miracles performed both during his lifetime and after death (for the latter see E00048). Many of his lifetime miracles have to do with the community of Clermont (which is saved by Gallus from fire, earthquake and plague), thus stressing Gallus' merits as a local leader in both spiritual and social terms. The saint had the unusual power to render other people's singing disagreeable (ch.5), which corresponded with his own singing skills (ch.2). On the monastery of Cournon, see Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1976, no. 93. Gallus' saving of Clermont from the plague can be dated by its appearance in Gaul in 543 (James 1991, 39); the same story, with additional detail, is given in Gregory's Histories 4.5 (E07752).


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: 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. Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., Les monuments religieux de la Gaule d’après les œuvres de Grégoire de Tours (Paris: H. Champion, 1976).

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