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E00262: Gregory of Tours, in his Life of *Lupicinus (recluse of Lipidiacum, ob. first half of the 6th c., S00104), describes a controversy over where the saint should be buried, between a propertied woman from Trézelles and the peasants of Lipidiacum (both central Gaul); he was buried at Trézelle, but both places enjoy his protection. 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 13.3

(Ch.3) Denique hoc [Lupicino], ut diximus, defuncto, adfuit quaedam matrona, quae ablutum dignis induit vestimentis, et, cum eum ad vicum Transaliensim ferre velit, restitit ei populus pagi Lipidiacensis, dicens: "Nostrum hunc solum fovit, nobis corporis eius gleba debetur". Matrona autem respondebat ad haec: "Si aliqua de victus eius exprobratis necessitate, saepius ei ego et triticum misi et hordeum, quod vel ille sumeret vel aliis ministraret". At illi dicebant: "Nostri generis homo effectus est, nostri fluminis aquas hausit, nostra eum terra caelo transmisit. Aequumne ergo est, ut tu de terra aliena veniens, rapias eum de manu nostra? Noveris enim, quia non hoc sustenet quisque nostrum, sed hic sepelietur". Matrona respondit: "Si germen stirpis eius inquiritis, ex aliis hic regionibus adventavit; si aquas fluminis ingeritis, parum sitim eius mollierunt, quam potius e caelo manans fons ille restinxit". Cumque haec et huiuscemodi inter se verba proferrent, et Lipidiacenses, effossam humum, deposito sarcofago, eum sepelire niterentur, convocatis matrona solatiis, fugatis paginsibus, rapuit sanctum corpus ac ferre coepit in feretro ad vicum Transaliacensim, dispositis in itenere psallentium turmis cum crucibus cereisque atque odore flagrantis thimiamatis. Quod illi cernentes, paenitentiam moti, miserunt post matronam, dicentes: "Peccavimus resistendo tibi. Profecto enim cognoscimus, in hoc esse Domini voluntatem. Nunc autem petimus, ut non abiciamur ab huius funeris obsequiis, sed admittamur officiis eius". Illa quoque permittente, ut sequerentur, coniunctus est uterque populus. Et sic pariter usque ad Transaliacensim vicum venientes, celebratis missis, beatum corpus cum summo honore gaudioque sepelierunt, in quo vico saepius se beatissimus in virtutibus declaravit. Sed et Lipidiaco, ut supra praefati sumus, plerumque opus eius sanctum ostenditur. Uterque tamen locus unius sancti praesidiis commonitur. Et fortassis quorundam incredibilium latratus de his conatur obstrepere, noverit, a me visum Deodatum presbiterum, summam octogenarii aevi ferentem, qui mihi haec, ut scripta sunt, contulit, confirmans sacramento, nihil se de his admixto mendatio enarrasse.

'When the saint [Lupicinus] had died a respectable woman washed the body and dressed it in suitable clothes, and then wanted to take it to the village of Trézelle (ad vicum Transaliensim). But the people of Lipidiacum opposed her, saying "It is our ground (solum) which nourished him, so the remains (gleba) of his body belong to us." But the woman replied "If you base your case on the needs of his life, then I have sent wheat and barley to him, which he ate himself or distributed to the others." And they said "The man is one of us. He drank the waters of our river and he ascended to heaven from our land. Is it right that you who come from somewhere else should take him from our possession? You should know that there is not one of us who will allow it. He will be buried here." The matron replied: "You want to know the origin of his family? He came from another region. You speak of the waters of his river? They did less to quench his thirst than the waters of heaven." And as they exchanged words like this the inhabitants of Lipidiacum dug a grave, placed a sarcophagus there and set about burying the body. But the woman called for help, put the peasants to flight and took away the holy body by force. She placed crowds of singers with crosses, candles and incense along the way, and then she had the body placed on a bier and carried to the village of Trézelle. The people saw that and repented, sending a message to the woman which said "We have sinned in resisting you, and we recognise sincerely the will of the Lord in this matter. We ask you now not to exclude us from his funeral service, but to allow us to attend." She allowed them to follow the coffin, and thus the inhabitants of both places united together and went together to Trézelle. Masses (missae) were celebrated and the holy body was buried with great honour and joy. The saint has manifested himself there several times by miracles, and his holy work has also been shown many times at Lipidiacum, as we have said, for both these places are protected by the same saint. And perhaps some doubters will try to object to what we have said. But they should know that I have seen the priest Deodatus, who is eighty years old, and he has told me things which I have written there, declaring under oath that everything is the absolute truth.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 266-267. Translation: James 1991, 88-89.


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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Eucharist associated with cult

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Ceremonies at burial of a saint

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Unspecified miracle Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Peasants Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Theft/appropriation of relics Transfer, translation and deposition of relics

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Oil lamps/candles


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. A controversy over the saint's body and its burial place is a common hagiographical motif (in Life of the Fathers see e.g. E00159). The two communities struggling for Lupicinus' body are Lipidiacum and Trézelle, represented by a well-off woman from this vicus (for the location of both places see E00258). Gregory quotes the arguments of both parties: the people of Lipidiacum claim that the saint's body belongs to the place where he lived and to the soil which fed him: there is a nice wordplay between the sustaining solum and the gleba (remains, but also soil) of the saint's body. The woman from Trézelle seems to have weaker and quite incoherent arguments: on the one hand she used to deliver food to the saint, on the other hand she argues that such associations don't play any role for the choice of the saint's burial place. The woman finally decides to take Lupicinus' body during its deposition and the success of her action seems to serve as the final and only proof of her cause (on this subject see Geary 1990). The ceremonies accompanying the burial (procession, candles, censers) are very typical, just as are the miracles taking place during the ceremony. Striking, however, are the masses (missae) mentioned by Gregory as an aspect of the obsequies; it is difficult to say whether it belonged to the standard burial procedures or was an exceptional liturgical act, supposed to stress the final union of the arguing parties. Gregory's account of the controversy over the saint's body ends with a conclusion which is rarely expressed in such a direct way: Lupicinus is buried in Trézelle, but he becomes patron of both places and works miracles equally in both. Gregory is aware that such a solution might appear quite doubtful to his readers, and summons to witness an old presbyter (known to him by name) who - so the story goes - confirms his words. It is hard to say whether the two centres of Lupicinus' cult did indeed coexist in such harmony, or whether it was only Gregory who tried to reconcile two competing traditions.


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: Geary, P.J., Furta sacra : thefts of relics in the central Middle Ages (Princeton paperbacks; 1st Princeton Paperback printing, with rev. text ed.; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990). 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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