University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E00053: Gregory of Tours, in his Life of *Gregory (bishop of Langres, ob. 539/540, S00038), recounts how, on the saint's death in Langres, his body was taken to Dijon for burial in the church of *John (presumably either the Baptist, S00020, or the Apostle and Evangelist, S00042); all in eastern Gaul. From Gregory's Life of the Fathers, written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 573/594.

online resource
posted on 2014-09-19, 00:00 authored by admin
Gregory of Tours, Life of the Fathers 7.3-4

Gregory dies while in Langres, on the day of Epiphany. His face is red and white like roses and lilies which renders him suitable for the future resurrection.

(Ch.3) Quod deferentes ad castrum Divionensi, ubi se iusserat tumulari, in campania illa quae a parte aquilonis habetur haud procul a castro adgravat, gestatores non sustenentes feretrum solo deposuerunt, ibique parumper resumentes vires et post paululum elevantes, ad intramuraneam eum eclesiam detulerunt. Advenientibus autem quinta die episcopis, ab eclesia ad basilicam beati Iohannis deferebatur; et ecce vincti carceris ad beatum corpus clamare coeperunt, dicentes: "Miserere nostri, piissime domne, ut, quos vivens in saeculo non absolvisti, vel defunctus [et] caeleste regnum possedens digneris absolvere; visita nos, quaesumus, et miserere nostri".
Haec et alia illis clamantibus, adgravatum est corpus ita, ut eum penitus sustenere non possent. Tunc ponentes feretrum super terram, virtutem beati antistitis praestolabant. His ergo expectantibus, subito reseratis carceris ostiis, trabis illa qua vinctorum pedes coartabantur, repulsis obicibus, scinditur media, confractisque catenis, omnes pariter dissolvuntur et ad beatum corpus, nemine retenente, perveniunt. Dehinc elevantes feretrum gestatores, hi inter reliquos obsequuntur, qui etiam iudice postea sine damno aliquo sunt dimissi.

(Ch.3) (...) As he was being carried to the town of Dijon, where he had ordered that he should be buried, those who carried him succumbed under the weight, while they were to the north of the town and quite close to it. Not being able to hold up the bier, they put it to the ground, and then, after they had rested and regained their strength, they picked it up and carried it into the church, which was inside the walls of the town. The bishops arrived on the fifth day, and the body was brought from the church to the basilica of Saint John. And behold, men in prison began to cry out, addressing the body of the saint, "Have pity on us, most pious lord, so that those whom you did not free while you were in this earth, may obtain their liberty from you now that you are dead and possess the heavenly kingdom. Come to us, we implore you, and have mercy on us." As they said these words, and others like them, the body grew heavy so that it could no longer be held up, and the bearers put the bier to the ground and waited to see what the power of the holy bishop would bring about. As they waited, suddenly the doors of the prison opened, the beam which held the feet of the prisoners broke in the middle, their bonds were loosened and the chains shattered, and they came to the body of the saint with nobody to stop them. Those who carried the bier lifted it again, and the prisoners followed it with the others. Later the judge ordered that they should be free from all punishments.

(Ch.4) On the day of the burial a man has a vision of the heavens opening; a prisoner passing by the body of Gregory on the way to Dijon is freed.

Text: Krusch 1969, 238-240. Translation: James 1991, 45-48.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Gregory, bishop of Langres (Gaul), ob. 539/540 : S00038 John the Baptist : S00020 John the Evangelist : S00042

Saint Name in Source

Does not appear Iohannes Iohannes

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory of Tours

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Ceremonies at burial of a saint

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle at death Freeing prisoners, exiles, captives, slaves Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Saint aiding or preventing the translation of relics

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves)


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 Gregory, see E00049. Gregory was Gregory of Tours' great-grandfather, through his mother Armentaria. Although Gregory died in Langres, he chose to be buried in Dijon, his home town (and the home town of Gregory of Tours' mother). Gregory, the author, throughout his works was keen to elevate the status of Dijon - here giving it (and his own family) a saint. In Histories 3.19, after a brief reference to Gregory of Langres, Gregory of Tours digresses to praise the natural and man-made beauties of Dijon, ending by wondering why it had never become a civitas (in other words, never had it own civic administration and bishopric, independent of Langres). When, in 574, Gregory's brother Peter was murdered in Lyon, his body was taken to Dijon, to be buried next to that of Gregory of Langres (Histories 5.5). The "intramural" church in Dijon where *Gregory's body awaited the arrival of the bishops is identified as the "quasi-cathedral" of Dijon ("home church" of the bishops of Langres) which became the actual cathedral of Dijon in the 18th c. From later sources we know that this church was dedicated to St Stephen (Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1976: 110-111).


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: Gras, P. "Le séjour à Dijon des évêques de Langres du Ve au IXe siècle, ses conséquences," in: Recueil de travaux offerts à M. Clovis Brunel membre de l'Institut, directeur honnoraire de l'École des chartes (Paris: Société de l'École des chartes, 1955), vol. 1, 550-561. 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 1976), 110-112.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager