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E00503: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Martyrs (30), tells of relics of *Andrew (the Apostle, S00288) and *Saturninus (bishop and martyr of Toulouse, S00289), which shortly after 524 were saved from fire in a town in Burgundy and translated to Neuvy-le-Roi (near Tours, north-west Gaul); they were then transferred to a new church, and replaced in the old one by a relic of *Vincent (deacon and martyr of Saragossa and Valencia, S00290). Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 580/594.

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posted on 2015-05-15, 00:00 authored by mszada
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs 30

Gregory tells of the tomb of Andrew the Apostle in Patras (see E00502), and continues:

Tempore, quo, interfecto Chlodomere rege Francorum, se exercitus reparans Burgundiam devastabat, in quadam basilicam reliquiae iam dicti apostoli cum Saturnini martyris tenebantur. Accensaque basilica, cum iam tegnorum moles dirueret, pauperes ac senes, quos barbaries reliquerat, flebant, dicentes: "Vae nobis, qui tantorum pignorum hodie caremus auxilia; nec nobis ultra spes praesentis vitae manebit, si haec deperierint". His ita flentibus, nutu Dei adveniens Turonicus homo, condolens his lamentis et discens virtutem martyrum, non minus fide quam parma protectus, per medias ingreditur flammas, adprehensasque ab altare sanctas reliquias, nihil ab igne nocitus, extulit foras, sed continuo ita constrictus est, ut gressum in antea agere non valeret. Tunc indignum se iudicans, qui eas ferret, unam puellam parvulam inpollutamque elegit a praeda, cui capsulam ad collum posuit et sic in patriam prospere accessit. Tunc conlocatis in altari Novivicensis eclesiae, ubi nulla adhuc sanctorum pignora habebantur, annis singulis devotissime eorum solemnia celebrabat. Cuius filius, cum haec post patris obitum non impleret, a febre quartana per annum integrum laborans, vovit, ut novam basilicam in eorum honore construeret; quo facto, amota febre, sanatus est.

Sed nec hoc sine Divinitatis providentia actum reor, quod ea die, qua beatae reliquiae in alia sunt translata basilica, errantes homines a via, qui beati Vincenti reliquias deferebant, ad vicum ipsum delati sunt. Tunc rogante presbitero, diviserunt ei particulam pignorum, quam in sancto altari, unde alias abstulerat, conlocavit.

'In the time when king Chlodomer of the Franks was killed, an army supplied itself by devastating Burgundy, where relics of the aforementioned martyr [Andrew] and of the martyr Saturninus were kept in a church. The church was set on fire, and already the bulk of the beams had collapsed. The poor people and the old people whom the barbarians had left behind wept and said: 'Woe to us, who today are without the assistance of such relics. If these relics are lost, we will have no more hope for the present life.' While they were weeping in this way, a man came from Tours at the command of God and shared in their grief. Once he heard about the power of the martyrs, he entered the middle of the flames, protected more by his faith than by a shield. After seizing the holy relics from the altar, he was not injured by the fire and ran outside. But suddenly he was so paralyzed that he could not walk as before. The man who was carrying the relics judged himself unworthy [to do so]; so he selected a guiltless young girl to carry the treasure. He hung the reliquary (capsula) around her neck and quickly returned in this way to his mother city. The relics were placed in the altar of a church at Neuvy-le-Roi (in altari Novivicensis eclesiae), where there were as yet no relics of any saints. Every year the man piously celebrated the festivals of these martyrs. After this man died, his son did not observe these festivals. When he suffered from a quartan fever for an entire year, the son vowed to construct a new church in honour of the martyrs. Once the [new] church was completed, the fever broke and he was healed.

But I think that this did not happen without the intervention of the Divinity, because on the same day that these blessed relics were transferred to this other [new] church, men carrying relics of St Vincentius lost their way and were brought to this village [of Neuvy-le-Roi]. Then, at the request of the priest they cut off a small piece of the relics [of St Vincentius] for him, which he placed in the holy altar from which he had removed the other relics.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 56. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 28.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Andrew, the Apostle : S00288 Saturninus, bishop and martyr of Toulouse (Gaul), ob. 250/1 : S00289 Vincent, deacon and martyr of Saragossa and Valencia, ob. c. 305 : S00290

Saint Name in Source

Saturninus Vincentius

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 - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miraculous protection - of people and their property Saint aiding or preventing the translation of relics Punishing miracle Miracle after death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Foreigners (including Barbarians)

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Noted absence of relics Construction of cult building to contain relics Division of 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. Neuvy-le-Roi is just north of Tours; it is there that Gregory must have heard this complicated story. The death of Chlodomer, mentioned in the first sentence, took place in 524.


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.

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