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E00258: Gregory of Tours writes the Life of *Lupicinus (recluse of Lipidiacum, ob. first half of the 6th c., S00104): it presents the saint as an extreme ascetic, mortifying his flesh and healing people at his cell at Lipidiacum (in the Auvergne, central Gaul). From Gregory's Life of the Fathers, written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 573/594. Overview of Gregory's Life of Lupicinus.

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posted on 2015-01-15, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Life of the Fathers 13 (Life of Lupicinus)


Preface: Athletes of Christ know of the eternal joy of salvation, and so are unbothered by the trials of this life.

§ 1: Lupicinus as a young man asked for alms at the houses of pious people and shared them with his companions. As a middle-aged man he enclosed himself in a cell at Lipidiacum; there he received water and bread through a small openings and his face was not seen by anybody. He sang psalms, wore a heavy stone on his neck and used a thorny staff to keep him awake in the night. His chest was so oppressed by the stone that he spat blood. Many voices singing psalms were heard from his cell. People were cured by touching his hand or through his blessing.

§ 2: Lupicinus foresaw the day of his death. On the specified day, he opened his cell to his brother monks and bade them farewell. After his death, people competed for fragments of his garments and for the blood that he had spat at the wall [see $E00261].

§ 3: A propertied woman from Trézelle and the peasants of Lipidiacum argued over where his body should be buried; the woman then seized the body by force, but with due ceremony, so that the people of Lipidiacum saw that they were in the wrong. Lupicinus effects miracles at both places [see $E00262]. Gregory's source was Deodatus, an eighty-year-old priest.

Text: Krusch 1969, 265-267. Summary: Marta Tycner.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Lupicinus, recluse from Lipidiacum in Gaul, ob. in the firs half of the 6th c. : S00104

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 - Places

Place associated with saint's life

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives



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 Lupicinus is the thirteenth book (and so the thirteenth Life) included by him in his Life of the Fathers (for which, see above). Gregory states that he learned the story of Lupicinus' burial from an old priest (see E00262); he also knew people healed by the saint's relics (see E00261). This shows the possible context of the writing of the Life: Gregory assembled some oral information about a saint venerated in the territory of Clermont and from it produced a written account of his life. Lipidiacum, according to Gregory formerly called "Berberensis vicus", close to Trézelle (Transaliensis vicus) some 80 km north-east from Clermont, is identified either with Lubié or with Dompierre-sur-Bèbre (Vieilliard-Troiekouroff 1976, 352-353). The Life of Lupicinus includes no information which would enable a precise dating of the events described. Since Gregory mentions the 80-year-old Deodatus as a witness of Lupicinus' life, it has been plausibly suggested that the saint died in the first half of the sixth century (James 1991, 88). The virtue presented by Gregory in the Life of Lupicinus is the saint's extreme asceticism. Gregory describes in detail different techniques used by Lupicinus to mortify his flesh.


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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