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E00640: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Martyrs (90), tells of trees miraculously blossoming in December, during her feast, at the tomb of *Eulalia (virgin and martyr of Mérida, S00407) in Mérida (south-west Spain), thereby predicting the abundance of the harvest for the next year. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 580/594.

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posted on 2015-08-17, 00:00 authored by mtycner
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs 90

Eulalia gloriosa apud Emeritam urbem passa, magnum miraculum in die immolationis suae populis profert. Sunt igitur ante eius altare, quo sancta membra teguntur, tres arbores, sed ignarus ego, cuius sint generis. Cumque iam medio mense decimo, quando eius passio celebratur, sint ab omni foliorum decorae nudatae, ea die inlucescente caelo in modum columbae alitis flores proferunt suavitatis, scilicet quod sanctus eius spiritus in columbae speciae penetraverit caelos, et quod beatum eius corpusculum iam exanime vestibusque nudatum nix caelitus decedua molli vellere contexisset. Quod miraculum si solita arbores protulerint libertate, scit populus sibi annum vel praessuris vacuum vel frugibus plenum. Quod si tardius flores ex more paruerint, cognoscit plebs, sua hoc fieri noxa; nam, priusquam erumpant, quaerula ad sepulchrum martyrae ac maesta decumbet, deprecans, ut solitam promereatur conspicere gratiam; sed nec psallendo procedit, si haec manifestata non fuerint. Iam si placatur martyr a lacrimis plebis, emergunt protinus ex arboribus gemmei flores, qui odore nectareo respirantes, animi maestitiam et adventu laetificent et reficiant suavitate. Dehinc diligenter collecti et in basilicam sacerdoti delati, processio cum gaudio celebratur; nam et hos flores saepius infirmis prodesse cognovimus.

'The glorious Eulalia suffered at Mérida. On the anniversary of her sacrifice she demonstrates a great miracle to the people. In front of the altar that covers her sacred limbs there are three trees, although I do not know what kind they are. When her suffering is celebrated in the middle of the tenth month [= December, by the reckoning used by Gregory], the trees are stripped of any ornamenting foliage. But as the sky brightens on her festival day, the trees produce sweet blossoms in the form of a winged dove; for her blessed spirit entered heaven in the shape of a dove and snow falling from heaven covered her blessed body, when it was already lifeless and stripped of its garments, with soft wool. If the trees produce this miracle with the usual spontaneity, the people know that their year will be free from problems and filled with crops. But if flowers bloom more slowly than usual, the people know that this threatens their own affairs. For already before the trees bloom the people bring their grievances and their quarrels to the tomb of the martyr and pray that they might be worthy to see the usual favour. If the blossoms have not appeared, there is no procession or chanting of psalms. But if the martyr is placated by the tears of the people, immediately flowers resembling gemstones blossom on the trees. The flowers emit the fragrance of nectar, and they make the sadness of the heart happy with their appearance and refresh it with their sweetness. Then the blossoms are carefully collected and brought to the bishop in the church. A procession joyously celebrates [them]. I know that these blossoms often assist ill people.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 98. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 84-85, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Eulalia, martyr of Mérida (Spain), ob. 303/305 : S00407

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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Procession

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places


Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Miracle with animals and plants Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money) Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future) Saint denying or suspending miracles Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - other Myrrh and other miraculous effluents of 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. Gregory in the final chapters of Glory of the Martyrs used Prudentius' Crown of the Martyrs (Peristephanon) extensively, and the latter's poem on Eulalia (Peristephanon III; E00787) was certainly a major source for what we read here. In particular, Prudentius, and then Gregory, tell of the dove that left her mouth at the moment of death and how her body was then miraculously covered in snow. However, further details in Prudentius and Gregory vary in an interesting way. Both authors refer to flowers at the saint's tomb, but very differently. Prudentius uses the rhetorical image of flowers as a metaphor to describe a particularly beautiful church floor made up of coloured marbles. Gregory describes three real trees growing at the saint's shrine, blossoming in December and predicting with their flowers the abundance of the next year's crops. Perhaps Gregory had at his disposal a second, independent tradition about Eulalia's cult, but it is also possible that he partly elaborated, and partly misunderstood Prudentius' account without access to any new information. The most striking novelty of his text, the prediction miracle, is paralleled in Gregory's accounts of other saints' shrines (see E00496; E00502). Gregory sets the martyrdom in mid-December, a precise detail that is missing in Prudentius (who merely sets it in winter); by Gregory's time, the feast of Eulalia was established at, or close to, 10 December (see E05047, E05048, E05049). That Gregory knew the date of her feast suggests that Eulalia attracted some cult in Gaul, though Gregory does not provide evidence of any dedications to her, or relics of her, in Gaul.


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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