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E00222: Gregory of Tours writes the Life of *Aemilianus and Brachio (hermit, and monastic founder of the Auvergne and Touraine, ob. 535/550 and 576, S00087): it presents Aemilianus as a hermit with control over animals, and *Brachio as a founder and reformer of monasteries in the Auvergne and Touraine (central and north-west Gaul). From Gregory's Life of the Fathers, written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 573/594. Overview of Gregory's Life of Aemilianus and Brachio.

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posted on 2014-12-02, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Life of the Fathers, Book 12 (Life of Aemilianus and Brachio)


Preface: Spiritual discipline leads us towards salvation. Some, like Aemilianus, have abandoned everything of the world and retreated into the wild.

§ 1: Aemilianus left his family and property and withdrew into a forest of the Auvergne; he cleared some land and lived off what he could grow. For company he had only the beasts and birds, which gathered round this man of God.

§ 2: Brachio, was a boar-hunter in the service at Clermont of the powerful Sigivald. One day he pursued a boar, which sought refuge at Aemilianus' cell; his dogs were miraculously prevented from entering the area. Aemilianus convinced Brachio to abandon his worldly occupation. Brachio, impressed by this speech and by the mildness of the boar in the presence of Aemilianus, initially tried to become a cleric in secret, fearing his master, Sigivald. He copied inscriptions from the images of saints, and with miraculous help thereby learned to read and write [see $E00223]. After the death of his master, Brachio joined Aemilianus in the wilderness and learned the whole psalter by heart. Other monks joined them.

§ 3: Aemilianus died and left Brachio as his successor. He founded a monastery to which Sigivald's daughter, Ranichild, donated land. He then left this community and came to Tours where he built oratories and founded two monasteries. He witnessed a miracle in the church of St Martin in Tours [see $E00224]. He returned to his first monastery in the Auvergne for five years, and then came back to Tours and nominated abbots for the monasteries he had founded there, before going back once more to the Auvergne. He re-established the monastic rule in the monastery of Menat. Aemilianus was chaste and affable, but severe in punishing those who broke the rules. He told bishop Avitus [of Clermont] about a dream in which he was taken up to heaven; this he interpreted as a sign of his approaching death. He asked to be buried near a river, where he had planned to build an oratory. When he died, he was at first buried in the oratory of his original cell; but two years later, when a suitable building had been prepared, his body (which was found to be intact) was transferred to the place of burial that he had chosen [see $E00225].

Text: Krusch 1969, 261-265. Summary: Marta Tycner


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Brachio, abbot of Menat in Gaul, ob. 576 : S00087

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 Miracle with animals and plants Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - abbots Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Women Aristocrats


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 Aemilianus and Brachio is the twelfth book (and so the twelfth Life) included by him in his Life of the Fathers (for which, see above). It is exceptional in Gregory's collection in terms of its literary composition. It describes two saints with very different biographies and does not make an effort to present them as one 'double' story (as, for instance, Gregory does in the case of the Life of *Lupicinus and Romanus; see S00003), but rather preserves the structure of two separate but overlapping hagiographic accounts, linked only by the fact that Aemilianus was Brachio's inspiration and spiritual model. The profiles of the two saints differ considerably: Aemilianus is a hermit and the text presents his biography as quite monotonous. On the other hand, Brachio's life is very eventful: he leads an adventurous life; withdraws from it after a miracle he witnesses; leads the life of a cleric first secretly, then openly; lives as a hermit and then travels around Gaul and founds monasteries. It was probably Brachio, active in Tours as well as in the Auvergne, who attracted the attention of Gregory, Aemilianus being - in terms of literary composition - only an adjunct to the biography of his younger colleague. The two saints represent different virtues leading to sanctity: for Brachio it is probably his activity as a founder of church institutions and cult buildings, and reformer of monasteries; for Aemilianus - his ascetic life, and also, of course, the merit of convincing Brachio to convert. In terms of the chronology of these events: the meeting of Aemilianus and Brachio must have occurred between 525, when Sigivald was placed in charge of Clermont and 534, by which date he was dead (James 1991, 82, n.2 and 83, n.5), while Brachio joining Aemilainus presumably happened shortly after 534 (the death of Sigivald). The next fixed date we have is 576, the death of Brachio, as recorded by Gregory in Histories 5.12 (E07875).


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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