File(s) not publicly available

E00470: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Martyrs (17), tells of a spring in Beth Haram in the Holy Land where *Joshua (Old Testament leader of the Israelites, S00258) used to bathe, and about trees near Jericho producing wool with which Joshua's garments were made; Gregory has seen some of this wool. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 580/594.

online resource
posted on 2015-05-06, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs 17

Sunt autem et ad Levidam civitatem aquae calidae, in quibus Hiesus Nave lavare solitus erat, ubi similiter leprosi mundantur. Est autem ab Hiericho duodecim milia. Prope autem Hiericho habentur arbores, quae lanas gignunt. Exhibent enim poma in modum cucurbitarum, testa in circuitu habentes dura, intrinsecus enim plena sunt lanae. Et de his enim ferunt ipsi Hiesu Nave solere fieri indumenta. Sed et hodieque tales exhibent lanas, ex quibus nos a quibusdam delatas vidimus et admirati sumus vel candorem vel subtilitatem earum.

'At the city of Levida there are hot springs in which Joshua the son of Nun used to bathe. There lepers are likewise cleansed. This city is twelve miles from Jericho. Near Jericho there are trees which produce wool. On these trees grow fruits similar to gourds that have tough shells around them but inside are full of wool. Some say that clothing used to be made from this wool for Joshua the son of Nun. But still today [these trees] produce such fine wool; I have seen some that people gathered, and I marvelled at its whiteness and fineness.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 49. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 17-18.

History

Evidence ID

E00470

Saint Name

Joshua, Old Testament figure : S00258

Saint Name in Source

Hiesus Nave

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

583

Evidence not after

593

Activity not before

585

Activity not after

593

Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Tours

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

Holy spring/well

Cult Activities - Miracles

Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - saint’s possession and clothes

Source

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. Internal references to datable events and to other work by Gregory, suggest that he wrote the greater part of his Glory of the Martyrs between 585 and 588, though there is one chapter (ch. 82), long before the end of the book, that describes an event that is most readily dated to 590. It is in fact likely that Gregory was collecting and recording these stories throughout his life, and, fortunately for our purposes, precise dating is not of great importance, since his views on the role of saints and the correct ways to venerate them do not seem to have changed during his writing life. The work was probably never fully completed and polished: the version we have closes with four very disparate chapters, including one (105) about the divine punishment of an avaricious woman that bears no obvious connection to the overall theme of the book. (For discussions of the dating, see Van Dam 2004, xi-xii; Shaw 2015, 104-105, 111.) In his preface, Gregory states that his aim in the work is 'to publicise some of the miracles of the saints that have until now been hidden' (aliqua de sanctorum miraculis, quae actenus latuerunt, pandere), so, as in his Glory of the Confessors, his focus is not on the lives of the saints, nor on the details of their martyrdoms, but on miracles they have effected, particularly through their relics. Miracles are recorded from many places; but unsurprisingly the largest number is from Gaul. The book opens, rather curiously, with a sizeable number of miracles and relics of Jesus and his mother Mary, neither of them conventional 'martyrs'. The explanation for this must be that Gregory's interest was really much more in relics and miracles in general than in martyrs specifically. Many of the Gallic saints he included are somewhat obscure, but outside Gaul he concentrates for the most part on major saints; towards the end of the book, however, he slips in a couple of lesser Syrian saints, probably because they had interesting specialisms: Phokas and Domitios, with, respectively, particular skills at curing snake bites and sciatica. In the case of the non-Gallic saints, it is not always clear whether they were attracting active cult in Gaul – Phokas and Domitios, for instance, almost certainly didn't. It is only when Gregory tells us of a church dedication or relic that we can be certain that the saint concerned had serious cult in Gaul: in the case of the martyrs of Rome, for instance, this is true of Clement and Laurence, but not of Chrysanthus and Daria, Pancratius, and John I. Although each section contains extraneous material, the work can be broken down very roughly into the following sections:    *Chapters 1-7: Miracles and relics of Jesus (with some of Mary), including three chapters (5-7) on relics of the Passion. (For the most part, these chapters are not covered in our database.)    *Chapters 8-19: Miracles and relics of Mary and John the Baptist.    *Chapters 20-25: Miraculous images of Jesus, and a spring associated with Easter.    *Chapters 23-34: Miracles and relics of the Apostles and Stephen (i.e. New Testament saints).    *Chapters 35-41: Miracles and relics of the post-apostolic martyrs of Rome.    *Chapters 42-46: And of northern Italy.    *Chapters 47-77: And of Gaul (in no obvious order, except that the first three chapters are occupied by early martyrs). This is the longest section of the book.    *Chapters 78-87: Very miscellaneous, with only marginal references to saints: three anti-Arian stories (79-81); two stories regarding relics of Gregory's (82-83); four stories of the punishment of impure people (84-87).    *Chapters 88-102: Miracles and relics of martyrs of Spain, Africa (just one, Cyprian of Carthage), and the East, in that order.    *Chapters 103-106: Miscellaneous. But tight structuring was never a great concern of Gregory's, so within this broad framework, he often wanders off his main theme. For instance, a clutch of miracle stories relating to John the Baptist (chs. 11-13) lead Gregory into a general discussion of the River Jordan (ch. 16), which then leads him to discuss some springs near Jericho (ch. 17), linked to the preceding chapter by the common theme of 'miraculous waters in the Holy Land', but with no connection to any martyr. Similarly, a miracle story involving relics of St Andrew and the punishment of an Arian count (ch. 78) leads Gregory into three stories against Arians with no relation to saints. These digressions did not bother Gregory and are part of the charm of his work. Gregory very seldom tells us about his sources, which for the most part were certainly oral; he had a wide circle of acquaintances within the Gallic church, and also met and collected stories from travellers from abroad, including (if the source is to be believed) a man who had travelled to India (ch. 31). But Gregory also used a range of written texts, including Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History (chs. 20 and 48), the poems of Prudentius, Paulinus of Nola, and Venantius Fortunatus, and a substantial number of Martyrdoms (Van Dam 2004, xiv-xvi). Because many of his stories are set abroad, Glory of the Martyrs is less informative about cult practices than Glory of the Confessors, with its very local and very Gallic focus, but it is still a gold-mine of information. To take just two examples: the story of Benignus of Dijon is a remarkably rich and detailed account of the discovery and enhancement of a previously unknown martyr (ch. 50), while that of Patroclus of Troyes shows the importance of a written Martyrdom, and the degree of scepticism that might greet a new one (ch. 63). There is a good general discussion of Glory of the Martyrs in Van Dam 2004, ix-xxiii, and of Gregory's hagiography more widely in Shaw 2015. (Bryan Ward-Perkins)

Discussion

For the overview of the Glory of the Martyrs see E00367. The quoted passage refers to an Old Testament figure whom one would hardly call a 'martyr' even in the broadest possible understanding of the word. It is probable that Gregory included this account in his text more as a digression on an interesting topic than as a story related to a martyr. He might have been inspired by the text on the Holy Land he presumably used as his source (see E00378) or by some oral accounts. Beth Haram was a place famous for its healing waters, but different sources associate them with different Old Testament figures (e.g. Moses, in the case of the Pilgrim of Bordeaux, see E06104). Gregory mentions the springs of Levida again in ch. 18 (see E00473). The description of a tree producing wool fits very well to the description of a cotton plant, unknown in late antique Europe, but grown in India and in the Far East. The image of a wool-producing tree was known in European literature from Herodotus on. The clothing Gregory refers to is the garment Joshua received from the Angel of Lord as a symbol of his priestly status (Zechariah 3:1-6).

Bibliography

Edition: Krusch, B., Liber in gloria martyrum, in: Gregorii Turonensis Opera. 2: Miracula et opera minora (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 1.2; 2nd ed.; Hannover, 1969). Translation: Van Dam, R., Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs (Translated Texts for Historians 4; 2nd ed., Liverpool, 2004). 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.

Usage metrics

Licence

Exports