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E00166: Gregory of Tours, in his Life of *Patroclus (hermit of Berry, ob. 576, S00064), tells of the death of the saint, a contest over possession of his body, and miracles at his grave in the monastery at Colombier (central Gaul). From Gregory's Life of the Fathers, written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 573/594.

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posted on 2014-11-10, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Life of the Fathers 9.3

[Patroclus] obiit in senectute bona, sanctitate praecipua. Qui aquis ablutus feretroque inpositus, ferebatur ad monasterium suum, ubi se vivens sepelire mandaverat. Tunc archipresbiter Nereensis vici, collecta clericorum cohorte, voluit vi auferre glebam sancti corpusculi, videlicet ut ad vicum suum, unde egressus fuerat, sepeliretur. Sed cum furibundus veniens vidisset a longe pallam quae sanctus tegebat artus eximio albere nitore, ita nutu Dei est metu perterritus, ut omni velocitate revocaret ab animo, quod male conceperat levitatis arbitrio, coniunctusque psallentio in exequiis sancti progressus, tumulavit eum cum reliquis qui aderant fratribus in ipso Columbariense monasterio.

Ad cuius sanctum sepulchrum Prudentia caeca cum alia Lemovicina puella similiter lumine viduata, ut sepulchrum sanctum in oratione osculatae sunt, lumen recipere meruerunt. Maxonidius autem post quintum caecitatis suae annum, hoc tumulum sanctum adiit, lumenque recepit. Inergumini vero Lupus, Theodulfus, Rucco, Scopilia, Nectariola, Tacihildis ad hoc sancti tumulum sunt mundati; sed et puellae duae de Lemovicino venientes, oleo quod ipse sanctus benedixit perunctae, a nequitia qua obsedebantur mundatae sunt. Et cotidie ibidem ad corroborandam fidem degentium operatur Dominus, qui perpetualiter glorificat sanctos suos.

'(...) he [Patroclus] died at a pious age and in perfect sanctity. After his body had been washed and placed on a bier he was carried to his monastery, where he had, while living, directed that he should be buried. The archpriest of Néris assembled a gang of clerics, planning to take the body of the holy man by force in order to bury it in the village from which the saint had once come. But as he came forward in anger he saw from afar that the cloth which covered the remains of the holy man was of an extraordinary shining whiteness. He was then, by God's will, so afraid that he immediately repented of the plan that he had conceived so lightly. He joined those who sang the office of the dead and assisted in the funeral with the other brothers who were present at the monastery of Colombier.'

At the tomb of the saint a blind woman called Prudentia and a young girl from Limoges, also deprived of sight, were found deserving, and received the light as soon as they kissed the tomb. Maxonidius also, after five years of blindness, came to the holy tomb and received the light. And the possessed, Lupus, Theodulfus, Rucco, Scophilia, Nectariola and Tacihildis, were also cleansed at the tomb of the saint. There were also two girls who came from Limoges, who were anointed with oil that had been blessed by the saint, and were thereby delivered of the evil spirit that assailed them. And in that place every day the Lord, who perpetually glorifies His saints, works miracles in order to confirm the faith of the people.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 254-255. Translation: James 1991, 69-70, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Patroclus, hermit from Berry in Gaul, ob. 576 : S00064

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 - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Exorcism

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Children

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - oil Touching and kissing relics

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Registers of miracles


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 Patroclus, see E00157. From Gregory's Histories 5.10, we learn that Patroclus died in 576. The monastery to which the body was taken was that at Colombier, which he had founded some eighteen years before his death (E00157, ch. 3). The contest over his holy body (a recurrent theme in Gregory's writings) was between this monastery and Néris, where Patroclus had begun his ascetic life and had founded a female monastery (E00157, ch. 2); as always in Gregory's work, the saint himself made it clear where he had to be buried. The account of the miracles at Patroclus' grave is very brief. Striking, however, is the list of names of the people experiencing them. They are introduced in a different way than in other texts of the Life of the Fathers, with no or almost no commentary about who these people were. It is possible that Gregory drew them from a written source; it might even be evidence of a register of miracles occurring at the shrine of Patroclus.


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.

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