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E00354: Gregory of Tours writes the Life of *Leobardus (recluse of Marmoutier, later 6th c., S00175): it presents the saint as an ascetic willing to accept episcopal guidance. From Gregory's Life of the Fathers, written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 573/594. Overview of Gregory's Life of Leobardus.

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posted on 2015-03-31, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Life of the Fathers, Book 20 (Life of Leobardus)


§ 1: Leobardus was born in the Auvergne to a family of free people. He refused to marry, but was forced into betrothal by his parents. After their deaths he decided to serve God.

§ 2: He overcame his doubts and decided to go to Tours, to the tomb of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) [see $E00355]. After a visit to the basilica he settled in a cell at Marmoutier, studied the Scriptures, memorised the psalms, fasted and prayed. Gregory heard the story of Leobardus' origins from the saint himself.

§ 3: Leobardus came into conflict with neighbouring monks and considered moving elsewhere, but Gregory explained to him that his bitterness was an artifice of the devil. He also sent the saint two books on the lives of saints so that he could be inspired by their example. As a result he became an ideal monk [see $E00356]. Living thus for twenty-two years, he was able to heal pustules with his saliva, and fevers with wine he had blessed with the sign of a cross. He restored the sight of a blind man, as witnessed by Abbot Eustachius.

§ 4: As Leobardus became weaker he summoned Gregory, who came and gave him communion. He foresaw when he would die. On his death, he was buried in the tomb that he himself had carved in the rock of his cell [see $E00357].

Text: Krusch 1969, 291-294. Summary: Marta Tycner.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Leobardus, recluse from Marmoutier in Gaul, ob. in the late 6th c. : S00175

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

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - abbots Other lay individuals/ people


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 Leobardus is the twentieth book (and so the twentieth and final Life) included by him in his Life of the Fathers (for which, see above). The Life tells the story of a saint personally known to Gregory. Indeed the text makes it clear that it was Gregory who influenced the formation of Leobardus so that he eventually fulfilled all the requirements of sanctity (see especially E00356). Gregory says explicitly that his knowledge about the saint's activity and lifetime-miracles came either from Leobardus himself or from the accounts of common acquaintances. Marmoutier (lat. Maius monasterium) lies across the river Loire from Tours. The text is not entirely clear as to what constitutes Leobardus' "saintly profile": Gregory explicitly states several times that he acquired the skills of a priest (as a child he learned the psalms, as a young man he preached to himself like a priest), but there is no mention of a priestly ordination or any activity which could suggest that Leobardus was a cleric. He is invariably presented as a recluse living in a cell, probably within a community of monks (see E00356). On the other hand, he receives communion on his deathbed and his death takes place on a Sunday during a mass (see E00357) - a unique example of such a situation in Gregory's collection. Another interesting aspect is Leobardus' close relationship to St Martin: it is in the basilica of this saint in Tours where his doubts about leaving the secular world cease (see E00355). Furthermore, the place where Leobardus settled, Marmoutier, was founded by Martin.


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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