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E00176: Gregory of Tours, in his Life of *Friardus (recluse near Nantes, ob. 573, S00078), recounts how, Secundellus, Friardus' fellow recluse on an island near Nantes (north-west Gaul), was deceived by the devil and believed he was a saint. From Gregory's Life of the Fathers, written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 573/594.

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posted on 2014-11-14, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Life of the Fathers 10.2

Friardus decided to withdraw from the world, and with two companions went to the island of Vindunitta, in the territory of Nantes. One of the companions leaves after a short time.

Sanctus vero Friardus cum Secundello diacono in supradicta insola stetit immobilis. Habebat tamen uterque eorum propriam cellulam, sed procul a se positam. Cumque strenuae in oratione persisterent, nocte Secundello diacono apparuit temptator in specie Domini, dicens: "Ego sum Christus, quem cotidie deprecaris. Iam enim sanctus effectus es, et nomen tuum in libro vitae cum reliquis sanctis meis adscripsi. Egredere nunc ab hac insola et vade, fac sanitates in populos". His et ille inlectus deceptionibus, discessit ab insola nec satelliti nuntiavit. Tamen, cum infirmis in nomine Christi manus inponeret, sanabantur. Regressus autem [valde] post multum tempus ad insolam, venit ad socium cum vana gloria, dicens: "Abii enim extra insolam et virtutes multas in populis feci".Cumque conterritus ille interrogaret, quid hoc sibi vellet, cuncta quae gesserat simpliciter pandit. At senior obstupiscens suspiransque et lacrimans, ait: "Vae nobis, in quantum audio, a temptatore delusus es! Vade, age paenitentiam, ne ultra tibi praevaleant eius doli!" Quod ille intellegens et perisse se timens, cum fletu ad pedes eius prosternitur, rogans, ut pro se Dominum deprecaretur. [Et ille]: "Vade", inquid, "et pariter eius omnipotentiam pro salute animae tuae poscamus. Non est enim difficilis Dominus se confitentibus miserere, cum ipse per prophetam dicat: Nolo mortem peccatoris, sed ut convertatur et vivat". Orantibus autem illis, advenit iterum temptator in similem speciem ad Secundellum diac. 10, p., dicens: "Nonne praeceperam tibi, eo quod oves meae morbidae essent et pastorem indigerent, ut egrederes et visitares atque opem sanitatis eis tribueres?" Et ille: "In veritate enim conperi, quod seductor sis, neque te Deum credo, cuius te speciem mentiris habere. Tamen, si Christus es, crucem tuam, quo reliquisti, ipsam ostende, et credam tibi". Cumque non ostenderet, diaconus crucem Domini in os eius faciens, confusus evanuit. Rursumque ad eum veniens cum multitudine daemonum, tanta eum caede mactavit, ut vix putaretur evadere. Et discedens, nusquam conparuit. Idem postea diaconus in summa sanctitate perdurans, die debito defunctus est.

'But St Friardus remained on the island with the deacon Secundellus, and did not leave it. They each had their own cell, far removed from the other. And as they courageously persevered in prayer the Tempter appeared during the night to the deacon Secundellus, in the shape of the Lord, saying "I am Christ, to whom you pray each day. Already you are a saint and I have inscribed your name in the book of life together with my other saints. Leave this island, therefore, and go and work cures among the people." He was deceived by this lie and left the island without saying anything to his companion. And when he put his hands on the sick in the name of Christ they were cured. After a long time he returned to the island and sought out his companion and said to him with vainglory, "I left the island and I did many miracles among the people." Friardus was frightened, and asked him what he meant, and Secundellus told him simply what had happened. The older man was astonished at this story, and sighing and weeping he said "Woe on us, for as far as I understand you have been deceived by the Tempter. Go and do penance, lest his ruses overcome you." Understanding these words and fearing lest he perish, the other threw himself at his feet, begging him with tears to intercede for him before the Lord. "Come," he said, "let us pray together to the Almighty for the salvation of your soul. For the Lord readily pities those who admit their faults, since He has said by His prophet 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live" [Ezech. 33:11]." But while they prayed the Tempter appeared to the deacon Secundellus in the same guise, saying "Did I not order you to go out to my sheep and cure them, since they are ill and lack a pastor?" And he replied "I found out that you are the Tempter, and I do not believe that you are God, whose appearance you have falsely taken. However, if you are Christ, show me your cross by which you left this earth, and I shall believe in you." And as he did not show him the cross, the deacon made the sign of the cross in the face of the devil, who immediately disappeared in disorder. But he returned with a multitude of demons and attacked the deacon with so much violence that he could hardly escape. At length he withdrew and did not reappear. The deacon afterwards lived in great sanctity, and died when his time had come.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 257. Translation: James 1991, 73-74.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Friardus, recluse from the island of Vindunitta near Nantes, ob. 573 : S00078

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 - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Uncertainty/scepticism/rejection of a saint

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation


The Life of the Fathers by Gregory of Tours (bishop of Tours, 573-594) is different to 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. 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). 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 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). The vast majority of the saints he describes were active within one or other of the two dioceses with which Gregory was involved (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). It is not known precisely when Gregory wrote the Life of the Fathers: probably he collected material for the work (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 end of his life, after he had already written much of his extensive hagiography recording the miracles of saints lying in their graves. For more on the text, and on its dating: James 1991, ix-xxv; de Nie 2015, xvi-xix; Shaw 2016.


For an overview of the Life of Friardus, see E0174. This interesting passage shows that Gregory believed that cures could be effected by diabolical, rather than saintly means - the danger signal here being Secundellus' pride and vainglory in what he was doing.


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).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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