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E00290: Gregory of Tours writes the Life of *Senoch (ascetic and miracle-worker near Tours, ob. 576, S00116): it presents the saint as an ascetic and a miracle worker in the Touraine (north-west Gaul), who heeded Gregory's admonitions. From Gregory's Life of the Fathers, written in Latin in Tours, 573/594. Overview of Gregory's Life of Senoch.

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posted on 2015-02-13, 00:00 authored by robert
Gregory of Tours, Life of the Fathers, Book 15 (Life of Senoch)


Preface: Saints of God can be led into arrogance and vanity, as happened to this man, until he heeded warnings.

§ 1: Senoch was a Taifal by birth, from the region of Poitou called Theifalia. He became a cleric and founded a monastery in the Touraine around an oratory where St Martin is said to have once prayed; a miracle happened during the deposition of relics in its altar by Bishop Eufronius of Tours [Gregory's predecessor; see $E00291]. He practiced rigourous asceticism in his cell. People brought him money and he spent it paying the debts of the poor and ransoming slaves.

§ 2: He visited Gregory in Tours and gave him his blessing. But then, after a visit to his former home in Poitou, he began to be arrogant and proud. When admonished by Gregory, however, he reformed his ways. He worked healing miracles, and wished to enclose himself in his cell; Gregory advised him to do this only between the feast of St Martin [11 November] and Christmas, and during Lent.

§ 3: Gregory gives a long list of his miracles: Senoch brought sight to a blind man, to a boy from Poitou and to a woman called Benaia, he straightened the limbs of two crippled boys, and - during Easter celebrations - the contracted fingers of a boy and a girl. He stopped the venom of serpents from spreading in the bodies of people who had been bitten, by means of an expelling prayer. He released a man's hand which had been paralysed as a result of working on Easter day. He performed exorcisms. He gave food and clothing to the people and built bridges to save people from drowning.

§ 4: Gregory visited him at his deathbed, and a large crowd of those whom he had helped mourned him. Miracles occur at his grave; in particular a paralysed man was healed when he kissed the cloth that covered his tomb [see $E00293].

Text: Krusch 1969, 271-274. Summary: Marta Tycner.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Senoch, ascetic and miracle-worker from Poitou, Gaul, ob. 576 near Tours : S00116 Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397 : S00050

Saint Name in Source

Senoch Martinus

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 Miracle after death Exorcism Punishing miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Children Slaves/ servants


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 Senoch is the fifteenth book (and so the fifteenth Life) included in his Life of the Fathers (for which, see above). It is the only text in the collection about a person whom Gregory himself knew well, due to the saint's activity in the close neighbourhood of Tours (for the location of Senoch's monastery, see E00291). Gregory gives only very brief information about Senoch's origin (besides the interesting fact that he was a Taifal, a barbarian people settled here probably in the third or fourth century) and no information about his childhood or youth. He begins his story at the moment when the holy man arrived in the territory of Tours, and mentions in many places his own interactions with Senoch, not least his good influence on him - indeed the Life encapsulates Gregory's ideal of the good ascetic accepting the guidance of his bishop. The account of Senoch's activity is detailed, and Gregory knows many names of people who profited from the saint's miracles. The saint's profile is clearly focused on his two merits: the pious use of money (for ransoming slaves and paying poor people's debts), and his ascetic life. The latter included enclosing himself in his cell and performing healing miracles. Gregory suggests in many places that ascetics are people to whom God grants healing power while they are still alive; however, the Life of Senoch shows clearly that healing activity - demanding constant contact with people - is to some extent at odds with the ascetic way of life. Gregory finds a way to reconcile the two aspects by convincing Senoch to enclose himself only during limited times of the year.


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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