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E00043: Gregory of Tours, in his Life of *Gallus (bishop of Clermont, ob. 551, S00034), tells how Gallus instituted rogations, and how the people of Clermont processed to the church of *Julian (martyr of Brioude, S00035) at Brioude in order to save their city from the plague; all in central Gaul, in 543. From Gregory's Life of the Fathers, written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 573/594.

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posted on 2014-09-17, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Gregory of Tours, Life of the Fathers 6.6

During the plague [of 543]:

[Gallus] rogationes illas instituit, ut media quadragesima psallendo ad basilicam beati Iuliani martyris itinere pedestri venirent. Sunt autem in hoc itenere quasi stadia 360.

'[Gallus] instituted the following Rogations: in the middle of Lent everybody went on foot, singing psalms, to the church of Saint Julian the martyr, which is at a distance of about 360 stadia.'

Thanks to Gallus, during his lifetime the plague spared Clermont.

Text: Krusch 1969, 234. Translation: Marta Tycner.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Julian, martyr of Brioude (Gaul), ob. late 3rd/early 4th c. : S00035 Gallus, bishop of Clermont, 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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Procession

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


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.


For an overview of the Life of Gallus, see E00039. The episode is part of a miracle of Gallus, bishop of Clermont, described by Gregory and repeated in Histories 4.5. Gallus prayed for the salvation of his city and had a vision of an angel who assured him that the inhabitants of Clermont would be spared from the plague during his lifetime. The dating of the episode to 543 is calculated on the basis of information given by Gregory: the angel predicted that the city would be safe until Gallus' death in eight years, and he died in 551 (James 1991, p. 40, n. 23). This was therefore the 'Justinianic' plague which devastated Constantinople in 541/2. The rogations (rogationes), also known as litanies (litaniae) were special days of prayer and fasting which involved liturgical processions. The Roman Rogations (litaniae maiores) were a set of processions which evolved in Rome from the Roman feast of Robigalia (25 April). From the late 5th c. on in different towns in Gaul the so called Minor Rogations (litaniae minores) were introduced as a means of asking for forgiveness and intercession. They also involved a liturgical procession and were, as far as we can say from different sources, conducted in three days in the week before Ascension (James 1991, 26, 39; Shanzer and Wood 2002, 381). The rogations introduced by Gallus seem to be a different celebration, and the only one to have connection with the cult of saints. The church of *Julian was located in Brioude, some 65 km from Clermont. It is mentioned many times in Gregory's writings, as the cult of this saint seems to have been especially promoted by his family (including Gallus, who was Gregory's uncle); see Van Dam 1993, 41-48.


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: Shanzer, D., and Wood, I., Avitus of Vienne: Letters and Selected Prose (Translated Texts for Historians 38; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2002). 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: Princeton University Press, 1993).

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