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E00535: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Martyrs (35), tells of the tomb of *Clemens/Clement (bishop of Rome, martyr of the Crimea, S00111) on the seabed, which is uncovered by the sea only on the day of his feast; a child left there by mistake was found asleep and unharmed a whole year later. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 580/594.

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posted on 2015-05-21, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs 35

Clemens martyr, ut in passione eius legitur, anchora collo eius suspensa, in mari praecipitatus est. Nunc autem in die solemnitatis eius recedit mare per trea milia; siccumque gradientibus iter praebens, usque ad sepulchrum martyris pervenitur. Ibique vota reddentes, orantes populi, regrediuntur ad litus. Factum est autem, ut in una solemnitatum mulier cum filio parvulo in loco accederet. Aepulante autem ea post acta solemnia, obdormivit infans. Dum autem haec agerentur, ecce sonus subito factus est accedentis pelagi. Dehinc oblita mulier subolis sui, coepit velociter cum reliquo populo petere ripam. Igitur insequenti maris accessu, postquam ad litus venerat, meminit se filium reliquisse. Tunc cum fletu magno deiecta terris, miseram se clamitans, litora vocibus replebat atque discurrebat per circuitum riparum, si forte enecatam prolem eiectamque litori quis conspicasset. Sed cum nihil inveniret indicii, tandem consolata a propinquis, ad propria reducitur, totum annum in luctu ac lamentatione deducens.

Recurrente autem anni circulo, venit iterum ad expectandam martyris solemnitatem, fortassis de infantulo aliqua invenire possit indicia. Quid plura? Recedente mare, anticipat omnes ad ingrediendum, et ipsa prima praecedit ad tumulum. Cumque prostrata solo orationem explesset, erecta sursum, genis ubertim fletuum imbribus madefactis, dum divertit in parte altera vultum, aspicit filium in eo loco, ubi eum dormientem reliquerat, in ipso adhuc sopore teneri. Aestimans autem, eum esse defunctum, accedit comminus, quasi collectura cadaver exanime; sed cum eum dormire cognovisset, excitatum velociter, expectantibus populis, incolomem levavit in ulnis. Interrogansque inter oscula, ubi per anni fuisset spatia, nescire se ait, si annus integer praeterisset; tantum dormisse se suavi sopore in unius noctis spatio aestimabat.

'As can be read in [the account of] his suffering, the martyr Clement was thrown into the sea with an anchor tied around his neck. Now, however, on the day of his festival the sea recedes three miles and offers a dry path to
people who walk and travel all the way to his tomb. There people make vows, pray, and then return to shore. During one of his festivals it happened that a woman came to the shrine with her small son. After the celebration of the festival, the woman was feasting and her young son fell asleep. While all this was happening, behold, suddenly the roar of the approaching sea was heard. The woman forgot about her son and began to run to the bank with the other people. The incoming sea followed. After she came to shore, she remembered she had left her son. She wept and threw herself to the ground, crying how miserable she was and filling the shores with her laments. She ran along the edge of the banks, on the chance that someone had seen a lifeless little boy tossed up on shore. But when she found no trace, she was consoled by her relatives and led to her own home. She spent an entire year weeping and mourning.

After the year went through its cycle, she came again to the festival that she had waited for; perhaps she would be able to find some trace of her little boy. Why say more? As the sea receded, she was the first to enter and the first to arrive at the tomb. After she knelt on the ground and prayed, she stood up, her cheeks moist from excessive crying. Then she turned her eyes in another direction and saw her son in the spot where she had left him asleep. He was still asleep. She thought that he was dead and approached nearer, as if to pick up a dead body. But when she saw that he was asleep and then suddenly woke up, she picked him up safe in her arms. All the people were watching. As she kissed him she asked where he had been for the past year. He said he did not know that an entire year had passed; he thought that he had dozed in such a sweet sleep for the space of one night.'

There follows another miracle of Clement (see $E00536).

Text: Krusch 1969, 60. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 35.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Clement, bishop of Rome and martyr, ob. c. 100 : S00111

Saint Name in Source


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

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Feasting (eating, drinking, dancing, singing, bathing)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Miraculous protection - of people and their property Power over life and death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Children


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. Clemens' martyrdom was generally believed to have taken place at Chersonnesus in the Crimea (see e.g. Clemens' Latin Martyrdom, E02488), but Gregory does not mention its location.


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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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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