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E00639: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Martyrs (89), recounts three miracles effected in western and north-western Gaul by relics of *Vincent (deacon and martyr of Saragossa and Valencia, S00290): in a church with his relics at Bessay in the territory of Poitiers, the inhabitants celebrated his feast a day early, but were put right by a possessed man who, with others, was then cured; at Céré-la-Ronde near Tours, relics being carried by travellers brought about cures; at Orbigny (also in the Touraine), relics were stolen and sold to an abbot of Bourges, but, after two visions, were solemnly returned, with an accompanying miracle. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 580/594.

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posted on 2015-08-17, 00:00 authored by mszada
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs 89

Gregory relates three separate miracle stories involving relics of Vincent:

Vincent, deacon and martyr, was martyred in Spain. At the border of the territory of Poitiers there is the village of Bessay, with relics (reliquiae) of the saint. Vincent's feast is on the twelfth day before the Kalends of the eleventh month [= 21 December by Gregory's reckoning], but the inhabitants there in ignorance celebrated the vigils a day early. However, having completed mass on the feast day and having just sat down to eat, a possessed man then told them that Vincent was approaching for his vigils. The villagers returned to a night of vigils and celebrated the feast the next day, at which the possessed man and two others, as well as two paralytics, were cured.

Some relics (reliquiae) of Vincent, being carried by travellers (a quibusdam peregrinis), arrived at Céré-la-Ronde (Ceratinsis vicus), a village in the territory of Tours, where they were hosted for the night in the humble house of a poor man. In the morning, two paralytics were cured in the presence of these relics (super haec pignora), and a blind man received his sight.

Haud procul autem ab illo vico est alius quem Orbaniaco vocant, in cuius eclesia huius sancti habentur reliquiae. Quae cum a furibus ablatae fuissent, et ipse qui easdem abstulerat in Biturigo cuidam abbati, accepto pretio, reliquisset, revelatum est abbati, ut eas loco unde dimotae fuerant restauraret. Nihilhominus et archipresbitero huic monasterio propinquo per visum manifestatum est, ne penitus moras innecteret ad restituendum. Quas acceptas cum psallendo deferret, homo quidam, qui per annum integrum oppraessus gravi aegritudine decubabat, inter suorum deportatus manibus, ut velum, quo sanctae tegebantur favillae, adorans suppliciter osculavit, mox conpraessa infirmitate sanatus, exsequiis martyrialibus cum reliquis est secutus.

'Not far from this village is another village called Orbigny, whose church has relics of this saint. Thieves stole these relics. The man who stole the relics left them with an abbot in Bourges, after being paid. The abbot had a vision that he should restore the relics to the place from which they had been removed. Likewise an archpriest who was a neighbour of the monastery had a vision that he should contrive no delays for their restoration. He received the relics and, to the chanting of psalms, transported them [to Orbigny]. A man who suffered from a serious illness and had been laid up for an entire year was carried by the hands of his servants so that he might honour the cloth that covered the holy ashes. As a suppliant he kissed the cloth. His illness soon vanished and he was healed. Along with the other people he followed the procession of the martyr.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 97-98. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 84, lightly modified. Summary: Bryan Ward-Perkins


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Vincent, deacon and martyr of Saragossa and Valencia, ob. c. 305 : S00290

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

  • Chant and religious singing

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Peasants Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Theft/appropriation of relics

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Cloth over/near the shrine


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. For Gregory the first month of the year was March, so the date he gives for the vigils and feast of Vincent is 20/21 December, which is puzzling since the feast was generally celebrated on 21 January (on the 11th day before the Kalends of February, not January). For a discussion of this mistake, see the notes to Krusch 1969, p. 97. Our evidence suggests that feast days were in practice somewhat flexible - see, for instance, the variant dates for the feast of Vincent in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum (E04616, E04617 and E04618) - but, according to Gregory, saints were very precise as to when they should be celebrated, which is in fact logical, since the feast days of martyrs were meant to be the precise days that they died on earth and were born into heaven. It has been suggested that the churches with relics of Vincent at Céré-la-Ronde and Orbigny were built by Bishop Eufronius of Tours (556-573), thus providing us with probable dates of the events described: see Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1976, p. 77, 195-6, 326. The third miracle story provides us with one exceptional detail: evidence of a thief (who apparently goes unpunished by the saint) selling stolen relics on Vincent. Seemingly relics had a monetary, as well as a spiritual value (unless it was the enclosing reliquary that really attracted the thief and the unwitting purchaser).


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. Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., Les monuments religieux de la Gaule d'après les œuvres de Grégoire de Tours (Paris, 1976).

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