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E00261: Gregory of Tours, in his Life of *Lupicinus (recluse of Lipidiacum, ob. first half of the 6th c., S00104), recounts how, on the saint's death, people competed for fragments of his clothing and for the blood that he had spat at the walls of his cell at Lipidiacum (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 2015-01-19, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Life of the Fathers 13.2

People gathered around Lupicinus as he died in his cell.

(Ch.2) Tunc omnes in fletu prostrati, alii plantas osculant, alii fimbrias vestimenti deripiunt, alii de pariete beatum sanguinem, quod ab eius fuerat ore proiectum, inter se certantes excudunt. Miserum se quisque dicebat, si inmunis ab eius pignoribus discessisset. Testis est hodieque ipse paries, qui tot fossolis patet, quot ab ore beati confessoris sputos emeruit. Testis est et ipse canalis, de quo vir beatus aquam sumpsit ad usus, de quo fideliter osculantes hauriunt sanitatem. Nam vidi ego multos, qui, evulsos a pariete sacrati oris sputos, in diversis infirmitatibus positi, meruerunt accipere medicinam.

'Then all fall down and weep. Some kiss his feet; others take away some fragment of his garment; others collect from the walls the blessed blood that he had spat out. And indeed scuffles break out among them, for each thought himself wretched if he left without having some relics of the holy man to take with him. The wall today still witnesses to what we have just said, for it has as many little holes as it had merited drops of spittle from the mouth of the blessed man. The channel from which the holy man drew the water he needed is another witness; in kissing it with faith one can drink health from it. I have indeed seen myself many who had scraped from the wall the spit which had come from that sanctified mouth, who have had the honour of relief from several illnesses.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 266. Translation: James 1991, 88.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

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 - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives


Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - saint’s possession and clothes Bodily relic - nails, hair and bodily products Bodily relic - entire body Bodily relic - blood


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 Lupicinus, see E00258. The situation described here was quite a common one and similar accounts can be found in many hagiographic texts. People, assembled at the saint's deathbed, divided among themselves the saint's possessions, clothing and other souvenirs which at this moment become relics. What is remarkable in this passage, is the particular focus on the saint's bloody spit left by him on the walls of his cell. This spit is definitely treated by Gregory as a holy souvenir of Lupicinus' extreme asceticism (elsewhere in the Life we are told that he spat blood because the stone he hung on his neck deformed his chest). Presumably in daily life, Gregory and his readers would have shared our revulsion towards such bodily products; if so, the account shows how powerful a saint's holiness could be, transforming into venerable relics even the most stomach-turning effluent.


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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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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