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E00574: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Martyrs (50), narrates three miracles associated with *Benignus (martyr of Dijon, S00320): how *Paschasia (religious woman of Dijon, S00321) appeared from her burial-church in Dijon (eastern Gaul) to encourage the builders of Benignus' church; how liquids poured onto a stone of his martyrdom cure people (including Gregory); and how Gregory's mother, by keeping the vigils of Benignus, saved her home in Clermont (central Gaul) from the plague. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 580/594.

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posted on 2015-05-29, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs 50

Gregory narrates how the sarcophagus of Benignus was discovered in Dijon by Bishop Gregory of Langre, who refurbished the saint's crypt, acquired an account of his martyrdom, and began a large church for the saint (see E00573). He continues:

In proximo autem est et alia basilica, in qua Paschasia quaedam religiosa veneratur. Nam visum est eo tempore structoribus, quendam anum egressam fuisse ab ipsa basilica, nigra veste, cigneo capite vultuque decora, quae sic affata est structoribus: "Heia, dilectissimi, perficite opus bonum; eleventur machinae, quibus erigitur haec structura, et merito acceleratur, quae talem habet exsecutorem. Nam si permitteretur, ut vestrorum oculorum acies contemplaret, nempe videbatis vobis operantibus sanctum praeire Benignum". Haec effata, basilicam, de qua egressa fuerat, ingrediens, nulli ultra conparuit. Autumabant enim eius temporis homines, beatam ibi apparuisse Paschasiam.

'There is another church nearby in which a certain religious woman (quaedam religiosa) Paschasia is venerated. At that time it seemed to the builders [of the church of Benignus] that an old woman had come out of the church. She was dressed in black, her hair was white as a swan, and her face was glorious. She said to the builders: 'Greetings, my most beloved men; complete your fine work. Let the scaffolding that supports this building be raised, and the task that has such a director will justly proceed quickly. For if it were possible for the sight of your eyes to see, you would surely realise that Saint Benignus is directing your construction.' After she said this, she entered the church from which she had come and never again appeared to anyone. The men of that time thought that the blessed Paschasia had appeared there.'

Super lapidem vero illum, in quo cum plumbo remisso pedes eius confixi fuerunt, factis loculis vinum aut siceram multi infundunt; unde, si aut oculi lippitudine gravati aut quaelibet vulnera fuerint peruncta, protinus, fugata infirmitate, sanantur. Quod ego evidenter expertus sum. Nam cum mihi nimia lippitudine oculi gravarentur, ex hoc sacrato unguine tactus, dolorem protinus carui.

'Receptacles were made (factis loculis) and many people pour wine and cider on the stone to which Benignus' feet were affixed with molten lead. Then, once eyes afflicted with inflammation or some other sores are soaked [with this liquid], immediately the illness leaves and they are healed. I certainly experienced this. For when my eyes were severely inflamed, I was touched with this holy ointment and immediately lost the pain.'

Cum autem ad Arvernam regionem lues illa inguinaria adveniret, quae sancti Galli episcopi oratione depulsa est, et in subita contemplatione parietes domorum atque eclesiarum signarentur atque caraxarentur, matri meae apparuit in visu noctis quasi vinum, quod in apothecis nostris habebatur, sanguis esset effectus. Cui lamentanti ac dicenti: "Vae mihi, quia signata est plagae domus mea", ait ei vir quidam: "Nosti", inquid, "quod post pridie, quod erit in Kalendis Novembris, passio Benigni martyris caelebrabitur?" "Novi", ait. "Vade", inquid, "et vigila totam noctem in honore ac revoca missas, et liberaberis a plaga". Expergefacta autem a somno, implevit quae sibi fuerant imperata, signatisque vicinorum domibus, domus nostra inviolata permansit.

'When that plague of the groin that the prayer of the holy bishop Gallus repulsed was approaching the territory of Clermont, signs and marks appeared on the walls of homes and churches suddenly, as men looked. My mother had a vision during the night in which it seemed that the wine that was in our cellars had been changed into blood. She wept and said: 'Woe am I, because my house has been marked for the plague.' A man replied to her and said: 'Do you know that the [anniversary of the] suffering of the martyr Benignus will be celebrated tomorrow on the Kalends of November [I November]?' 'I know,' my mother said. He said: 'Go, keep the vigil in his honour during the entire night, attend the mass, and you will be rescued from the plague.' My mother awoke from her sleep and did what she had been ordered. Although the houses of our neighbours were marked, our home remained untouched.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 73. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 50-51, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Benignus, martyr of Dijon (Gaul), ob.? : S00320 Paschasia, nun venerated at Dijon (Gaul), ob.? : S00321

Saint Name in Source

Benignus Paschasia

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

  • Eucharist associated with cult

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Healing diseases and disabilities Saint aiding or preventing the construction of a cult building Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies Miraculous protection - of people and their property

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Merchants and artisans Women

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - instrument of saint’s martyrdom Contact relic - other Contact relic - water and other liquids


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. Paschasia is otherwise only known from Gregory's Glory of the Confessors 42 (E02610), where he tells this same story (and nothing more). Although this is not explicit, it is unlikely that the church in which she was venerated was actually dedicated to her, since she appears to be a fairly minor figure. Gregory's mother was a native of the region of Dijon, so it is unsurprising to find her seeking the help of a Dijon saint, even when she was living in Clermont. The plague that Gregory here describes was the 'Justinianic' plague which reached Gaul in 543 (when Gregory was only a young child): he also mentions it, and how Bishop Gallus of Clermont repulsed it, in his Life of Gallus (Glory of the Confessors 6.6; E00043) and in Histories 4.5 (E07752), though in both these passages he states that Gallus prevented the disease from reaching Clermont at all, whereas the story of Gregory's mother only makes sense if there was some outbreak in the city.


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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