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E00055: Gregory of Tours, in his Life of *Gregory (bishop of Langres, ob. 539/540, S00038), tells how, with accompanying miracles, the body of the saint was moved to a newly built apse in the church of *John (presumably either the Baptist, S00020, or the Apostle and Evangelist S00042) in Dijon (eastern Gaul) by his son and successor as bishop of Langres. From Gregory's Life of the Fathers, written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 573/594.

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posted on 2014-09-23, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Gregory of Tours, Life of the Fathers 7.4-5

(Ch.4) Admirabile est enim et illud miraculum, qualiter beatum corpus eius, cum post multa tempora transferretur, apparuit gloriosum. Cum beatus pontifex in angulo basilicae fuisset sepultus, et parvus esset locus ille, nec ibi populi sic possent accedere, ut devotio postulabat, sanctus Tetricus, filius et successor eius, haec cernens et virtutes ibidem assidue operari prospiciens, ante altare basilicae fundamenta iacet, erectaque absida, miro opere construit et transvolvit. Qua transvoluta disruptoque pariete, arcum aedificat. Quod opus perfectum atque exornatum, ut in medio absidae loculum fodit, ubi corpus beati patris transferre volens, convocat presbiteros et abbates ad istud officium; qui vigilantes orabant, ut se beatus confessor ad hanc praeparatam habitationem transferri permitteret. Mane autem facto, cum choris psallentium adprehensum sarcofagum ante altare in absidam, quam beatus episcopus aedificaverat, transtulerunt. Quod sepulchrum dum diligenter conponunt, subito et, ut credo, a Dei iussu operturium sarcofagi motum est in una parte. Et ecce apparuit beata facies eius ita integra et inlaesa, ut putares, eum non mortuum esse, sed dormientem; sed nec de ipso vestimento, quod cum eo positum fuit, aliquid ostensum est diminutum. Unde non inmerito apparuit gloriosus post transitum, cuius caro non fuit corrupta ludibrio. Magna est enim corporis et cordis integritas, quae et in praesenti saeculo praestat gratiam et in futuro vitam largitur aeternam, de qua Paulus apostolus ait: Pacem sequimini et sanctificationem, sine qua nemo videbit regnum Dei.

(Ch.4) (...) There was also a wonderful miracle by which his [Gregory's] body appeared glorious after several years, when his body was moved. The holy pontiff had been buried in a corner of the basilica, in a very narrow place, so that the people could not approach him as their devotion demanded. The holy Tetricus, his son and successor, realised this, and seeing miracles happen ceaselessly at the tomb, he laid foundations behind the part of the church where the altar was, and built an apse, constructed and vaulted with admirable workmanship. He finished the vault and then knocked down the [old] wall and opened an arch [between the church and the apse]. When the work and its decoration were complete he cut in the middle of the floor of this apse a place where he wanted to transfer the body of his blessed father. He convoked for this ceremony priests and abbots, who held vigils and prayed that the holy confessor would allow them to translate his remains to the newly prepared place. Then, on the following morning, the choirs singing psalms, they took the sarcophagus in front of the altar and then carried it into the apse built by the holy bishop. But as the burial was carefully being made, suddenly, and as I believe by God's orders, the lid of the sarcophagus came loose at one side and, behold, the blessed face of the confessor could be seen, intact and whole, just as if it belonged to a sleeping person and not a dead man. None of his vestments, which had been placed with him, had rotted in the least. It was not without reason that he was seen to be glorious after his death, since his flesh had not been corrupted by pleasures. That integrity of the body and heart is truly great which shows grace in this present life and which, in the future, is rewarded with eternal life: as the Apostle Paul said, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no men shall see the Lord" [Hebr. 12:24].

There follows, in chapter 5, an account of miracles at Gregory's grave: a girl was combing her hair on Sunday and for punishment the comb stabbed into her hand. She prayed at the saint's grave and it came loose. Demoniacs are cleansed after confessing the name of the saint.

Text: Krusch 1969, 239-240. Translation: James 1991, 47-48, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

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

  • Chant and religious singing

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Power over objects Punishing miracle Power over objects Exorcism Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Contact relic - saint’s possession and clothes Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Raising of relics


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. The translation of Gregory's relics, combined with an enlargement of the church where they were to rest, was a major development in the formalisation and establishment of his cult. Gregory's tomb was moved into a new apse behind the altar, making it accessible to the faithful. The elevation itself is described as an ideal one: abbots and bishops assemble, they hold vigils and perform the ceremony singing psalms; the saint's body and vestments are revealed to be uncorrupted. All of this was organised by Gregory of Langres' own son, Tetricus, who had succeeded him as bishop of Langres. For the implications of this all happening in Dijon, not Langres (the seat of the bishopric), see E00053. Gregory considered Tetricus, his great-uncle, to have also been a saint: he planned to write an entry for him in his Glory of the Confessors (E02777), and in his Histories recorded two miraculous visions in which Tetricus appeared, in one case striking his unworthy successor and causing his death (E07758 and E07780).


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: 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 1976), 110-111.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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