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E00348: Gregory of Tours, in his Life of *Monegundis (female recluse of Chartres and Tours, mid/late 6th c., S00150), tells how she visited a church in the Touraine (north-west Gaul) with relics of *Medard (bishop of Noyon buried at Soissons, ob. 557/558, S00168), and celebrated vigils there. From Gregory's Life of the Fathers, written in Latin in Tours, 573/594.

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posted on 2015-03-19, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Life of the Fathers 19.2

Monegundis, a recluse from Chartres travels to the basilica of St Martin in Tours.

(Ch.2) Cumque iter coeptum carperet, venit ad vicum urbis Toronicae cui nomen est Evena, in quo beati Medardi Sessionici confessoris reliquiae contenentur, cuius et vigiliae ea nocte celebrabantur; in quibus illa adtente excubans in orationem, hora debita cum reliquo populo ad missarum accessit solemnia. Quae dum a sacerdotibus Dei celebrantur, advenit quaedam puella (...).

'While on her way she came to a village of the Touraine called Esvres (Evena), where relics of the blessed confessor Medard of Soissons were preserved; that very night his vigils were being celebrated. The saint [Monegundis] passed the vigils in attentive prayer, and at the appropriate time participated in the solemn mass together with the rest of the people. While the priests were celebrating it, a young girl came up (...).'

The girl asks Monegundis for healing and the saint accedes to her request.

Text: Krusch 1969, 287-288. Translation: James 1991, 120-121. Summary: Marta Tycner.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Medard of Soissons, bishop of Vermandois/Noyon in Gaul, ob. 557/558 : S00168

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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Eucharist associated with cult

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic


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 the Life of Monegundis see E00335. Evena is identified as Esvres-sur-Indre where a church was built by Perpetuus, bishop of Tours (460-490) (see Vieilliard-Troiekouroff 1971, 119-120). The relics of *Medard were evidently placed there at a later date, since the saint died only in 557/558. The presence of these relics in Esvres is proof of a relatively rapid spread of the cult of Medard after his death and burial in Soissons by Chlothar I (Histories 4.19, see E02097). The quoted passage gives an important insight into the way a saint's feast was celebrated in Gaul in the times of Gregory. It is not clear what particular feast it was, but we can suppose either the principal feast of Medard or a feast related to his relics (perhaps the feast of their translation). The celebration consisted of night vigils and a mass celebrated probably on the following morning (by more than one priest in this case).


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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