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E00606: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Martyrs (70), tells how his brother-in-law was healed by an infusion made from a sage-leaf scattered at the grave of *Ferreolus and Ferrucio (martyrs of Besançon, S00348) in Besançon (eastern Gaul). Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 580/594.

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posted on 2015-06-14, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs 70

Visonticorum quoque civitas propriis inlustrata martyribus, plerumque miraculis praesentibus gaudet. Huic in abdita criptae duo, ut passio declarat, martyres Ferreolus atque Ferrucio sunt sepulti. Factum est autem quodam tempore, ut vir sororis meae, invalescente febre, graviter aegrotaret. Cumque iam quarti mensis spatio lectulo anhelus occumberet, ut nihil aliud coniux maesta, nisi quae sepulturae erant necessaria, cogitaret, sanctorum basilicam flens ac tristis expetiit; provolutaque coram sepulchris, palmis ac facie rigentem oppraemit pavimentum. Accedit autem fortuitu, ut extensa dexterae manus palma folium herbae salviae, quod pro honore martyrum in cripta conspersum fuerat, operiret. Postquam autem, fusa oratione, cum lacrimis surrexit a tumulis, putans aliquid de lenteaminibus, quae induta erat, manu prendisse, ut adsolet, volam contenuit clausam; egressaque basilicam, patefacta manu, folium herbae miratur. Obstupefacta vero, quid huc esset, munus caeleste indultum sibi divinitus recognoscit, ut scilicet per eum virtus martyrum infirmo succurreret. Domui igitur iam laetior rediens, folium dilutum aqua viro porregit ad bibendum. Qui ut hausit plenus fide, protinus sanitatem plenissimam meruit obtenere.

'Besancon is also distinguished by its own martyrs and often rejoices in current miracles. According to the account of their suffering, the two martyrs Ferreolus and Ferrucio were buried here in an obscure comer of a crypt. Once it happened that the husband of my sister was very ill with a high fever. Already he had lain gasping on his bed for four months. Since his grieving wife could think of nothing else except what was required for his funeral, she wept and in her unhappiness went to the church of the saints. She knelt before their tombs, and she pressed her hands and face to the hard pavement. By chance it happened that the palm of her outstretched right hand closed on a leaf from the herb sage that had been scattered in the crypt in honour of the martyrs. Then, at the conclusion of her prayer, she rose in tears from the tombs. She thought she had taken in her hand something from the linen garments she was as usual wearing, and she kept her hand closed. After leaving the church, she opened her hand and was surprised by the leaf of the herb. Astounded at what it was, she recognized it as a gift from heaven granted to her by God, so that through it the power of the martyrs might no doubt assist her ill husband. She returned home in happiness, soaked the leaf in water, and offered the potion for her husband to drink. He was filled with faith, and when he drank the potion, immediately he was worthy to obtain his complete health.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 85. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 66-67.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Ferreolus and Ferrucio, martyrs at Besançon (Gaul), ob. late 2nd/early 3rd c. : S00348

Saint Name in Source

Ferreolus, Ferrucio

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 - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives


Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - other


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 story comes from within Gregory's own family. It is interesting evidence of a practice attested elsewhere in his work, of scattering herbs around a saint's grave. The Martyrdom of the two saints, which Gregory refers to in the second sentence, may be the surviving text E06312.


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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