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E00221: Gregory of Tours writes the Life of *Caluppa (recluse of the Auvergne, ob. 576, S00083): it presents the saint as a solitary and enclosed ascetic, with the power to repel the devil; Gregory had visited him in person in 572/576. From Gregory's Life of the Fathers, written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 573/594. Overview of Gregory's Life of Caluppa.

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posted on 2014-12-01, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Life of the Fathers, Book 11 (Life of Caluppa)


Preface: Poverty in this world unlocks the kingdom of heaven.

§ 1: Caluppa entered the monastery of Méallat in the Auvergne. Not accepted by the other monks and by the prior because of his excessive asceticism, which prevented him from working, he retired from it and settled in the cleft of a rocky crag not far from the monastery, which he adapted into a cell and oratory, despite the presence of many snakes (which were certainly manifestations of the devil). One day two huge dragons confronted him, but, recognising a diabolical attack, he forced them to leave through the power of prayer and the sign of the cross.

§ 2: He fasted assiduously. With his prayers he cured the sick who came to him. Since the nearest water source was far down in the valley below, he asked God for a spring to appear in his cell, and his request was fulfilled. The water was just enough for the saint and the boy who was charged to serve him.

§ 3: Gregory mentions a visit he himself made to Caluppa in the company of bishop Avitus [of Clermont], and assures us that all the events he recounts he heard from Caluppa himself. Caluppa was ordained deacon and presbyter by Avitus. He never left his cell, nor showed himself, but blessed those who came to him, through a small window. He died at the age of 50.

Text: Krusch 1969, 259-261. Summary: Marta Tycner.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Caluppa, recluse from the valley of the river Marlhoux (Gaul), ob. 576 : S00083

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 - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Children Ecclesiastics - abbots Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


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.


Gregory's Life of Caluppa is the eleventh book (and so the eleventh Life) included by him in his Life of the Fathers (for which, see above). It is one of the few in the collection to concentrate on the saint's lifetime only, with no mention of posthumous miracles. According to his own words, Gregory met Caluppa in person, when he visited him with his teacher Avitus, bishop of Clermont (c. 572-594). This visit can be dated to the years after Avitus became bishop (in c. 572), and before Caluppa's death in 576; it is most likely to have happened before Gregory became bishop of Tours in 573. A conversation with the recluse and observations made during the visit were presumably Gregory's main sources of information about the saint's life, although his fame had obviously reached Clermont before the visit. Caluppa's monastery of origin (monasterium Meletinse) is with some probability to be identified with Méallat near Mauriac, some 100 km south-west from Clermont; consequently, his cell and oratory must have been located in the valley of the nearby river Marlhoux (Vieilliard-Troiekouroff 1976, 168-169). The text, giving no information about any posthumous cult of Caluppa, describes in some detail his veneration during life: people visiting the saint, asking for healing, blessing or just conversation, accessing him through a little window in his cell. For a similar account see E00258. The death of Caluppa is recorded by Gregory of Tours in his Histories 5.9 (E07874) as occurring in 576; there he also gives a very brief account of Caluppa's life, referring the reader for a fuller account to his Life of the saint here in Life of the Fathers.


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. Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., Les monuments religieux de la Gaule d'après les œuvres de Grégoire de Tours (Paris: H. Champion, 1976).

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