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E00537: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Martyrs (37), tells of the tomb and crypt of *Chrysanthus and Daria (chaste couple and martyrs of Rome, S00306) in their church in Rome; people who had gathered for the saints' festival there were buried in the crypt by an evil emperor and became martyrs themselves; much later a theft of silver vessels was prevented; Gregory mentions an inscription of pope Damasus at the shrine. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 580/594.

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posted on 2015-05-22, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs 37

Crisantus martyr, ut historia passionis declarat, post acceptam martyrii coronam cum Daria virgine multa populis sanitatum beneficia tribuebat. Et ob hoc etiam cripta super eos miro opere fabricata est, quae in arcorum modo transvoluta, firmissima stabilitate subsistit. Denique cum ad eius festa populorum frequentatio confluxisset, iniquissimus imperator, erectum in illius criptae introitu parietem, conclusa multitudine, iussit aedem harena ac lapidibus operiri, factusque est desuper mons magnus; idque gestum certissime ipsius manifestant scripta certaminis. Quae cripta diu sub hoc velamento permansit operta, donec urbs Romana, relictis idolis, Christo domino subderetur. Iam procedente tempore iam nulli erat cognitus locus ipsius sepulturae, donec domino Iesu revelante patefactum est; cuius parte in una loci, interposito pariete, sepulchra martyrum Crisanti et Dariae segregata, parte in alia sanctorum reliquorum cadavera in unum sunt congregata. Verum tamen pariete illo, qui est in medio positus, fenestram structor patefactam reliquit, ut ad contemplanda sanctorum corpora aditus aspiciendi patesceret.

'According to the history of his suffering, after the martyr Chrysanthus received the crown of martyrdom with the virgin Daria he graciously performed many healings for people. For this reason a crypt of wonderful workmanship was constructed over their tombs. The crypt was vaulted in the manner of arches and stood on a very solid foundation. When a crowd of people gathered for his festival, an evil emperor had a wall constructed across the entrance to the crypt to trap the people inside and ordered that the shrine be covered by sand and rocks. A large mound was built on top. The records of the martyr's struggle clearly state that this is what happened. For a long time the crypt remained buried by this covering. Finally the city of Rome discarded its idols and yielded to Christ the Lord. Already during previous years no one knew the location of this mausoleum, until the Lord Jesus revealed and exposed it. A wall divided the place; on one side the tombs of the martyrs Chrysanthus and Daria were separated, on the other side the bodies of the other saints were placed in one tomb. But the builder left an open window in this wall that had been placed in the middle, so that a panorama was available for viewing the bodies of the saints.'

Gregory then recounts a long story centred on some silver vessels that the worshippers who had come to venerate Chrysanthus and Daria (and were then walled up by the emperor) had brought with them; these after the shrine was reopened in Christian times could also be seen through this window. A subdeacon coveted these vessels and crawled in at night through the window to steal them, but then was unable to find his way out. Hiding by day, he tried for three nights to get out, and was finally driven by starvation to reveal himself and confess his crime.

Post multum vero temporis cognoscens hoc factum Damasus antestis sanctae sedis apostolicae, iussit diligentius operere fenestram, ubi et versibus decoravit locum. Et ibi benedicitur dominus noster Iesus Christus ad laudem nominis sui usque in hodiernum diem.

'Much later Damasus, bishop of this holy apostolic see [of Rome], learned of the deed and ordered that the window be carefully closed over. He commemorated the spot with some verses. And still today our Lord Jesus Christ is blessed by the praise of his name at this spot.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 62. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 35-36. Summary: Bryan Ward-Perkins


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Chrysanthus and Daria, martyrs in Rome, ob. c.283 and martyrs buried with them : S00306

Saint Name in Source

Crisantus, Daria

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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - crypt/ crypt with relics

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Punishing miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Discovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics Public display of relics

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Precious material objects Chalices, censers and other liturgical vessels


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. Chrysanthus and Daria were significant Roman martyrs, whose tomb on the via Salaria nova is mentioned in early pilgrim itineraries (see e.g. E00637, E06998). They were the subjects of a lengthy, epic Martyrdom (E02487), which Gregory seems to have known, since he begins his account by stating that, 'as the history of the martyrdom declares' (ut historia passionis declarat), Chrysanthus was martyred together with Daria, and states of the burial of their crypt by the emperor that 'the records of their martyrdom say this' (idque gestum certissime ipsius manifestant scripta certaminis), as indeed the extant martyrdom account does (Martyrdom of Chrysanthus and Daria § 27). However, there is hardly any overlap in the content of the Martyrdom and that of Gregory's account: the former recounts the lives of Chrysanthus and Daria, focussing on their struggle to preserve their virginity, followed by a long account of their tortures and execution. Gregory's account barely alludes to the martyrs' actions during their lives, effectively beginning with the burial of their tomb by the emperor, which is the point at which the Martyrdom ends. Gregory's account is not so much an account of Chrysanthus and Daria as of their tomb, with the longest section being his narrative about the deacon who was miraculously prevented from robbing it (an incident known only from Gregory).


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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