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E00357: Gregory of Tours, in his Life of *Leobardus (recluse of Marmoutier, later 6th c., S00175), recounts the death of the saint, and his burial in his cell at Marmoutier (north-west Gaul). From Gregory's Life of the Fathers, written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 573/594.

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posted on 2015-03-31, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Life of the Fathers 20.4

Leobardus living in his cell, became weaker and weaker.

Quadam autem die, dum nimium fessus haberetur, nos ad se vocari praecepit. Ad quem accedentes, postquam funeris sui necessitate deflevit, euglogias a nobis peccatoribus flagitavit. Quibus acceptis, austo mero, ait: "Tempus meum iam impletur, iubente Domino, ut me ab huius corporis vinculis iubeat relaxari, sed adhuc paucis diebus erit spatium. Verumtamen ante diem sanctum paschae vocandus ero". O beatum virum, qui sic servivit Creatori omnium, ut suum obitum revelatione divina cognosceret! Erat enim mensis decimus, quando haec est effatus. Duodecimo autem mense coepit iterum graviter aegrotare. Advenit dies dominica, vocat ministrum suum et ait: "Praepara quiddam cibi, quod accipiam, quia valde defessum me sentio". Illo quoque respondente: "Praesto est, domine", ait ad eum: "Egredere foris et aspice, si iam, celebrata solemnia, populus de missis egreditur". Hoc autem dicebat, non quod cibum capere vellet, sed ut transitu suo nullus testis adesset. Quo egrediente et revertente, cum ingressus fuisset cellulam, invenit virum Dei extensum corpore, clausis oculis, spiritum exalasse. Unde manifestum est, eum ab angelis susceptum, qui hominis adesse noluit suum sacer herus ad transitum. Haec cernens minister ille, elevavit vocem in fletu. Sicque, concurrentibus reliquis fratribus, ablutus ac vestimentis dignis indutus, in sepulchro, quod ipse sibi in antedictam cellulam sculpserat, reconditus est, quem in consortio sanctorum adscitum, nulli fidelium haberi reor incertum.

'On one day when he was particularly tired he called us to him. We went, and after having wept for the necessity of his death he begged us, a sinner, to give him communion. He received it, and drank the wine, and said, "My time is finished. God ordains that I shall be delivered from the bonds of this body, but it will take some days. I shall be called by Him before the holy day of Easter." O happy man, who served the Creator of all things so faithfully that he knew by divine revelation the moment of his death! It was the tenth month of the year when he said these things, and in the twelfth he fell ill again. One Sunday he called his servant to him and said "Prepare me some food to take, for I am very weak". And he replied, "I shall do it, master". And he said, "Go see if the office is finished and if people are leaving Mass." He said that not because he wished to take food but so that nobody might witness his death. The servant returned, and when he entered the cell he found the man of God, his body stretched out, his eyes closed, and his spirit departed. Which proves clearly that the angels took him, since the holy hero wished nobody to be present at his death. At the sight the man who had served him cried out and wept. The other brothers ran up. The body was washed, and dressed in a suitable way, and he was put into a tomb which he himself had cut out of the rock in his cell. No faithful person will doubt that he is in the company of the saints.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 293-294. Translation: James 1991, 129-130.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

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

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Ceremonies at burial of a saint

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits 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.


For an overview of the Life of Leobardus, see E00354. The account of Leobardus' death and burial is interesting in two respects. First, Gregory was himself present at the saint's sickbed shortly before his death; by mentioning it Gregory stressed yet again his close relationship with the holy man and his personal involvement in his formation (for an earlier example see E00356). Secondly, Leobardus was buried in his cell, a detail repeated several times in Gregory's collection (see E00225, E00351). Unusually, Gregory does not record posthumous miracles at his grave.


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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