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E00625: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Martyrs (78), tells of relics of *Andrew (the Apostle, S00288) in the cathedral at Agde (southern Gaul), and recounts how a count was punished for stealing a property of the church; in the story the bishop extinguishes the lamps in the cathedral until God takes vengeance on the count. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 580/594.

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posted on 2015-07-20, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs 78

Eclesia quoque Agatensis urbis, quae sancti Andreae apostoli reliquiis plaudit, plerumque gloriosis inlustratur miraculis, pervasores rerum suarum saepius arguit.

'The cathedral at Agde, which rejoices in its relics of the apostle St Andrew, often is distinguished by glorious miracles and often exposes those who invade its possessions.'

Gregory then recounts a long miracle story. The count (comes), Gomacharius, seized a field belonging to the church. When remonstrated with by the bishop, Leo, he refused to return the property, because he was a heretic. The count fell ill, and promised to return what he had taken. The bishop prayed for him and he recovered; but on recovery he changed his mind, attributing his cure to the natural course of the disease.

Quod cum episcopus conperisset, venit ad eum, dicens: "Num paenitet te prius fecisse bene, quod hoc iterum conaris evertere? Ne facias, quaeso, et ultioni divinae subiaceas". Qui ait ad episcopum: "Sile, sile decrepite; nam infrenatum te loris circuire urbem super asinum faciam, ut sis in ridiculo omnibus qui te aspexerint". At ille silens ad nota recurrit praesidia; prosternitur in oratione, celebratur vigilias ac noctem totam in lacrimis et psallentio ducit. Mane autem facto, accedit ad lignos, qui de camera eclesiae dependebant, extendensque virgam, quam tenebat in manu, effregit cunctos, dicens: "Non hic accenditur lumen, donec ulciscatur Deus de inimicis et restituat res domus suae". Haec eo dicente, protinus hereticus ille in rediviva febre corruit.

'When the bishop learned of this, he went to the count and said: 'Do you already regret to have done a good deed, so that you attempt again to do the opposite? I ask you, do not do this, and do not expose yourself to divine vengeance.' The count said to the bishop: 'Be quiet, be quiet, you decrepit man. I will have you bound with the reins to ride around the city on an ass, so that everyone who sees you might ridicule you.' The bishop was silent and returned to his familiar protection [in the cathedral]. He knelt in prayer, kept vigils, and spent the entire night weeping and chanting psalms. At daybreak he went to the lamps that hung from the rafters of the cathedral, stretched out the staff that he held in his hand, and broke all the lights. He said: 'No light will be lit here until God takes vengeance on his enemies and restores this field that belongs to his house.' As he said this, immediately the heretic collapsed from a revived fever.'

Near death, the count sent to the bishop, again promising to return the field, and asking for his prayers; but Leo refused, saying he had already done this once. Repeated entreaties are also turned down. Eventually the count had himself carried before the bishop and this time offered double restitution, but was yet again refused. The count ordered Leo with the threat of force to go to the cathedral, but as the bishop set out to do this, the count died. The church recovered its property.

Text: Krusch 1969, 90. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 73. Summary: Bryan Ward-Perkins


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Andrew, the Apostle : S00288

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 - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Destruction/desecration of saint's shrine

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Punishing miracle Miraculous protection - of church and church property Power over life and death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Aristocrats

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries


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. It is not explicit, since Bishop Leo never invokes Andrew by name, but Gregory is presumably attributing at least part of the success of divine vengeance to the presence in the cathedral of the Apostle's relics. The story cannot be dated with any precision, but is probably set in the first half of the sixth century (Van Dam 2004, p.74, note 93). Agde was under Arian Visigothic control, hence Count Gomacharius, presumably a Goth, was a heretic. Because Gregory attributes Gomacharius' stubborn refusal to accept that he had been cured through divine intervention to his Arian beliefs, this leads Gregory to include, as the next three chapters of Glory of the Confessors (ch. 79-81), three stories illustrative of the errors and evils of the Arians, with no reference to the martyrs and their miracles. The story of Gomacharius and Bishop Leo is in most respects a standard punishing miracle against someone who stole church property, but it does also contain one unusual and interesting detail: the moment when Bishop Leo smashes the lamps in the cathedral and says they will not be relit until God has taken appropriate vengeance on Gomacharius. This story finds a parallel, though with actions taken to shut down cult that are more extreme, in Gregory's Glory of the Confessors 70 (E02687), where a bishop of Aix shuts down the shrine of Saint Mitrias, until he obtains the restitution of a villa of the church that has been seized by a magnate.


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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