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E00478: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Martyrs (46), tells of a written Martyrdom of *Nazarius and Celsus (martyrs of Milan, S00281), according to which they were martyred in Embrun (south-east Gaul), and buried there; their graves were lost and a pear-tree grew over them, which bore healing fruits; the saints ordered it to be cut down, and a church was built on the spot; in the altar of this church there are relics of *Genesius (notary and martyr of Arles, S00263). Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 580/594.

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posted on 2015-05-08, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs 46

Gregory tells of the relics of *Gervasius and Protasius (martyrs of Milan, S00313) and continues:

De sancti vero Nazarii ac Celsi pueri artubus, quos apud Ebredunensim Galliarum urbem passos lectio certaminis narrat, et ipsa ita clam propter paganorum insecutionem sepulta sunt, ut in tempora secutura oblivioni darentur. Referre erat solitus vir ille, qui de supradictis sanctis quae praefati fuimus enarravit, natam fuisse super haec sepulchra pirum arborem, et fecisse quodam paupere hortellum in hoc loco, qui hanc arborem concludebat.
Verum cum poma iuxta morem tempore debito ferret, quicumque exinde infirmus, qualibet aegritudine detentus, pomum mordicus decerpsisset, mox ablata infirmitate convaliscebat. Unde magnum quaestum pauper ille habebat. Sed cum se revelantes martyres, arborem incidi iussissent, pauper ille in magnis fletibus prorumpens, incidi arborem non sinebat. Quo remoto, succisa piro, basilica miro opere aedificata est; in cuius etiam altari beati Genesi Arelatensis martyris reliquiae venerantur.Tantaque pauper ille fide praelatus est, ut sacerdotium in hac eclesia deinceps promereretur.

'With regard to the limbs (artubus) of saint Nazarius and the young boy Celsus, the text of their struggle says that they suffered in Embrun, a city in Gaul. Because of the persecution of the pagans, their bodies were buried so secretly that in the future they were forgotten. The man who narrated what I have just written about the aforementioned saints used to say that a pear tree had grown over their tombs and that a poor man kept a garden in that spot that surrounded the pear tree. But when the tree as usual produced pears at the proper season, whatever ill person who was weakened by some sickness and who picked and bit into a pear always soon recovered after his sickness left him. As a result this poor man began to make a great profit. When the martyrs revealed themselves [in a vision] and ordered the tree to be cut down, the poor man broke out in tears and would not allow the tree to be cut down. But in the man's absence the pear tree was cut down and a church of marvellous workmanship constructed. In the altar of this church relics of the blessed Genesius, martyr at Arles, are venerated. The poor man was distinguished by such faith that eventually he deserved to become a cleric for this church.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 70. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 45-46, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Genesius of Arles, notary and martyr, ob. 303/308 : S00263 Nazarius and Celsus, companion martyrs of Milan : S00281

Saint Name in Source

Genesus Celsus Nazarius

Type of Evidence

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


  • 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 - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Production and selling of eulogiai, tokens

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Oral transmission of saint-related stories

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Peasants Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic Bodily relic - entire body Construction of cult building to contain relics


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)


For the overview of the Glory of the Martyrs see E00367. After recounting, in the first half of this chapter, the discovery in Milan by Ambrose of the bodies of the martyrs Gervasius and Protasius (see E00544), Gregory tells us unequivocally of a text, presumably a Martyrdom, that placed the death and burial of Nazarius and Celsus, well-known Milanese martyrs (discovered also by Ambrose), not in Milan, but in Embrun, on the French side of the Alps, towards Provence: ''With regard to the limbs of saint Nazarius and the young boy Celsus, the text of their struggle says that they suffered in Embrun, a city in Gaul', De sancti vero Nazarii ac Celsi pueri artubus, quos apud Ebredunensim Galliarum urbem passos lectio certaminis narrat. This Martyrdom does not survive, though there are apparently later medieval sources that echo this tradition (Delehaye, p. 350). Gregory may himself have been puzzled to find Nazarius and Celsus in Embrun, since he was generally well informed about Ambrose's activities: his recounting of the story in the same chapter as that of the discovery of the relics of Protasius and Gervasius in Milan, perhaps reflects this uncertainty. In light of Gregory's words, presumably there existed in Embrun a church which claimed the bodies of the two saints, though Gregory, with his reference to 'limbs' (artus), rather than 'bodies' (corpora), is slightly ambiguous (perhaps deliberately). Relics of Milanese saints were widely diffused, including in Gaul, around 400; perhaps Embrun had received such relics, and these had later grown to be the full bodies of the saints, spawning also a story of their martyrdom in the city. Another link of Nazarius and Celsus with Embrun can be found in one version of the Martyrdom of Nazarius and Celsus (BHL 6043), which seems to suggest that they were natives of the city, while still placing their death and burial in Milan (for a summary of this text, see E02034). The discovery of the relics of Nazarius and Celsus takes place in a garden, and is very closely associated with a miraculously fruiting tree. It is interesting, and perhaps significant, that Gregory tells us that the church of Embrun also contained relics of Genesius of Arles, another saint closely associated with the fertility of miraculous trees (see E00480, E00479, E00481).


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: Delehaye, H., Les origines du culte des martyrs (Brussels, 1933). 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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