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E00225: Gregory of Tours, in his Life of Aemilianus and Brachio (hermit, and monastic founder of the Auvergne and Touraine, ob. 535/550 and 576, S00087), recounts how Brachio was first buried in the oratory of his first cell; two years later his uncorrupt body was transferred to the burial site he himself had chosen; all in the Auvergne (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 2014-12-03, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Life of the Fathers 12.3

Brachio sees in a dream the seraphim and the Prophet Isaiah and interprets this as a sign of his approaching death.

(Ch.3) ... dicit abbati, quem in priore statuerat monasterio: "Locus ille secus fluvium, in quo oratorium facere conputabam, iocundus est valde. Ideo rogo, ut quod ego volui, tu expleas atque ibi ossa mea transferre non abnuas". Quo migrante et in oratorio prioris cellulae sepulto, cum abba iniunctum cuperet opus explere, nutu Dei et calces coctos antiquitus et fundamentum in ea mensura qua ipse ponere cogitabat nanctus est. Perfectumque aedificium, detexit abbatis sepulchrum. Quo patefacto, [ita] repperit corpusculum inlaesum, ut putaretur ante diem alterum fuisse defunctum; et sic cum gaudio, prosequente caterva monachorum, quam ipse edocuerat, in loco illo post duos annos translatus est.

'He says to the abbot whom he had appointed in the first monastery: "The place near the river, where I had thought of building an oratory, is very pleasant. I beg you to carry out my wish, which is that my bones should be laid there." When he died he was buried in the oratory of his former cell. But the abbot wished to carry out the wish of the saint, and with God's permission he put together in that place lime which had been long prepared, and foundations of the size he wanted. Then, the work being finished, he opened the grave of Abbot Brachio, whose body remained intact as if he had died the day before; and thus, two years after his death, he was transferred (translatus est) to that place with great joy by the congregation of monks that he himself had instructed.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 264-265. Translation: James 1991, 85. Summary: Marta Tycner.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

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

Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Ceremonies at burial of a saint

Cult Activities - Miracles

Bodily incorruptibility

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - abbots Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Construction of cult building to contain 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 Aemilianus and Brachio, see E00222. Brachio's Life highlights his activity as founder and renewer of monasteries, and as builder of oratories. This adds a specific shade of meaning to the common topos of a saint who chooses the place of his burial. Here, strikingly, Brachio's choice is not the particular holiness of the place or its connection to a certain community, but its pleasantness. Brachio's wish is fulfilled a few years after his death, but only after the place he chose has been prepared adequately. We learn from this passage that in monasteries there existed oratories adjoined to monks' cells and that these could be suitable for a holy man's burial (at least temporarily). From other passages in Gregory, we know that the saints' dwelling places could be after their death transformed into a place of remembrance (see $00062), with their belongings serving as both relics and souvenirs of the holy person. Sometimes also the saint's body was deposited there - see e.g. E00225, E00357. In his Histories 5.12 (E07875), Gregory tells us that Brachio died in 576.


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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