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E00588: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Martyrs (63), tells of the cult of *Patroclus (martyr of Troyes, S00346), in an oratory with only one priest at Troyes (north-east Gaul); the latter borrows and copies a Martyrdom of the saint but this is disbelieved by the bishop; later a second copy is found in Italy; the cult flourishes, a church is built, and the annual festival devoutly celebrated. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 580/594.

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posted on 2015-06-08, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs 63

Patroclus quoque martyr, qui apud urbem Tricasinorum sepultus habetur, saepius se amicum Dei virtutibus multis ostendit. Erat enim super eum parvolum oratorium, in quo unus tantum clericus serviebat. Loci enim homines parvum exhibebant martyri famulatum, pro eo quod historia passionis eius non haberetur in promtu. Mos namque erat hominum rusticorum, ut sanctos Dei, quorum agones relegunt, attentius venerentur. Quidam igitur de longinquo itinere veniens, libellum huius certaminis detulit, lectori, quem in ipso loco servire diximus, prodidit ad legendum. Ille vero post decursa lectione valde gavisus, nocturno sub tempore, famulante lumine, velociter exemplavit. Hominibus quidem digressis, hic episcopo suo exhibet quae reppererat, putans, se per haec gratiam adsequere sacerdotis. At ille non credens, nisi confictum aestimans, caesum increpatumque clericum abscedere iubet, dicens: "Te haec iuxta votum tuum dictasse, manifestum est; nam numquam ea cum ullo homine repperisti". Post multum vero tempus, ut virtus martyris non esset occulta, abiit exercitus in Italiam; detulit passionis huius historiam, sicut a clerico tenebatur scripta. Tunc confusus valde episcopus, cognovit, vera esse quae a clerico dicebantur. Populus autem ex hoc magis honorare coepit martyrem, constructaque super eum basilica, festivitatem eius per singulos annos devote concelebrat.

'The martyr Patroclus is held to have been buried at Troyes. By his many miracles he often shows that he is a friend of God. Over his tomb was a small oratory (parvolum oratorium) where only one cleric served. The men of that region showed little respect for the martyr, because no account of his suffering (historia passionis) was at hand. For it was the custom of untutored men to venerate more carefully those saints of God whose struggles they could read about. Then a man arrived from a long journey and brought a small book [with an account] of Patroclus' struggle. He presented this book for the lector, who as I have said served at this shrine, to read. After quickly reading it the lector was very happy; during the night, with the assistance of a lamp, he rapidly copied the book. After the men left, he showed what he had discovered to his bishop, thinking that in this way he would acquire the goodwill of the bishop. But the bishop did not acknowledge the book and thought it was instead a forgery. After striking and rebuking the cleric, the bishop ordered him to leave and said: 'It is obvious that you have dictated these things in accordance with your wish; for you never found these things from any man.' But so that the power of the martyr would not be concealed, many years later an army marched into Italy; it brought back an account of the suffering of Patroclus, just as it had been written down by the cleric. The bishop was then very upset and realised that what the cleric had said was true. Thereafter, however, the people began to give more honour to the martyr. After constructing a church over his tomb [at Saint-Parres-au-Tertre], they piously celebrated his festival every year.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 81. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 60-61, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Patroclus, martyr at Troyes (Gaul), ob. in the late 3rd c. : S00346

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 - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Uncertainty/scepticism/rejection of a saint

Cult Activities - Miracles

Unspecified miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

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. This is a very interesting passage for the evidence it provides about the relationship between cult and the existence of a written account about the saint. Patroclus had a cult, but, according to Gregory, it needed a written account of his martyrdom to make this flourish. It is also interesting evidence that not all martyrdom accounts were believed: in this case the bishop was (understandably) reluctant to believe in a text written out in the hand of the oratory's priest, and it needed an independent copy to authenticate it. For a discussion of the extant martyr account of Patroclus, see E06480.


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