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E00257: Sulpicius Severus, in his Dialogues, mentions a vision of *Thekla (follower of the Apostle Paul, S00092), *Agnes (virgin and martyr of Rome, S00097), and *Mary (presumably the Mother of Christ, S00033), which *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050), had during his episcopate (371-397). Written in Latin in Primuliacum (south west Gaul) c. 404-406.

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posted on 2015-01-14, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Sulpicius Severus, Dialogues 2.13.4-5

Sulpicius Severus records the account, given him by the monk Gallus in his own words, of a vision granted to Martin:

Incredibiliora forte dicturus sum, sed Christo teste non mentior, nisi quisquam est tam sacrilegus, ut Martinum aestimet fuisse mentitum. dicam, inquit, uobis, sed uos nulli quaeso dicatis: Agnes, Thecla et Maria me cum fuerunt.

'I will say what is even harder to believe, but, Christ is my witness, I do not lie, unless someone is so sacrilegious as to think that Martin had lied. "I will tell you" - he [Martin] said, "but I ask you not to tell anybody: Agnes, Thecla and Mary were with me."'

Text: Fontaine 2006. Translation: Roberts 1894.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, bishop of Tours (Gaul), ob. 397 : S00050 Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033 Thekla, follower of Apostle Paul : S00092 Agnes, martyr in Rome (ob. c. 304) : S00097

Saint Name in Source

Martinus Maria Thecla Agnes

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts


  • 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)

Primuliacum Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Major author/Major anonymous work

Sulpicius Severus

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Oral transmission of saint-related stories

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Uncertainty/scepticism/rejection of a saint

Cult Activities - Miracles

Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


Sulpicius Severus, an aristocrat and friend of Paulinus of Nola, was converted to the ascetic life under Martin's influence and founded a monastic community on his estate of Primuliacum in Aquitaine. There, c. 404/406 he wrote the Dialogues on Martin of Tours, known also as the Gallus, a few years after its hero's death (397). The Dialogues pretend to be a record of a two-day friendly talk held in Sulpicius' community by a small group of monks from the circle of Sulpicius and Martin. It was the final part of Sulpicius' writings about Martin, following the Vita (for an overview, see E00692) and three letters (see E00635, E00691, E00693). All these texts present Martin as a perfect monk, bishop and miracle-worker. Sulpicius Severus argues that there is no contradiction between being a good bishop and a monk, and even that only a monk makes a good bishop. This apology was needed, since ascetic monasticism was a novel and controversial idea, and the Gallic episcopacy was generally reluctant to accept it. The Dialogues also emphasise that Martin surpassed the famous monks of Egypt - he performed greater miracles living in more difficult condition, for he was living in a hostile environment and was deprived of the luxury of solitude. For an overview of the Dialogues, see E00845.


Sulpicius Severus wrote down this story, supposedly told by the monk Gallus, one of the participants of the gathering held in Primuliacum, who in turn had learned it from Martin himself. The visions and miracles described in Martin's life raised doubts and sneers which Sulpicius tried to answer in his Dialogues and letters (see E00691, E00845). The group of saints who visited Martin is interesting for three reasons. First, they are all women, and it is difficult to say why. Second, this is the earliest evidence of the cult of Thekla, the companion of Paul (whose shrine was in Seleucia in Asia Minor), and of Agnes, a martyr at Rome. Third, though both Thekla and Agnes were renowned saints, it is curious that Mary, almost certainly the mother of Jesus, was not singled out in any way. Later Mary would certainly be raised to a higher, unique, status.


Edition and French translation: Fontaine, J., Sulpice Sévère, Gallus. Dialogues sur les «vertus» de saint Martin (Sources Chrétiennes 510; Paris: Cerf, 2006). English translation: Roberts, A., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Second Series, vol. 11 (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1894). Further reading: Stancliffe, C., Saint Martin and his Hagiographer: Miracle and History in Sulpicius Severus (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983). Vogüé, A. de, Histoire littéraire du mouvement monastique dans l'antiquité. Vol. 4 (Paris: Cerf, 1997), 93-156.

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