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E00658: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Martyrs (104), tells how *Vincentius (martyr of Agen, S00432) punished soldiers who in 585 broke into his church at Agen (south-west Gaul), robbing and killing those sheltering within. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 580/594.

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posted on 2015-08-17, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs 104

Vincentius autem Agenensis urbis et ipse martyr, cuius passionis historia ab incolis retenetur, leviticae stolae candore in eclesia Christi micans, magnis saepissime virtutibus fulget, in pervasoribus rerum suarum plerumque ultor severus exsistit. Tempore autem illo, quo contra Gundovaldum commotus exercitus ad Conveniensim urbem directus est, ab huius hostilitatis multitudine basilica eius vallatur tota. Erat enim in ea plebs omnia rerum suarum praesidia confidens de reverentia martyris, quod nullus ea praesumptione temeraria auderet attingere, et obseratis ostiis, se ab intus cum rebus incluserat. Circumdantes autem postes, cum aditum, per quod ingrederentur, invenire non possint, ignem ostiis aedis subiciunt; quam diu multumque succendentes, non adprehendebant valvae, donec inpulsu securum comminutae ingressi sunt, diripientes res populumque inclusum in ore gladii trucidantes. Sed non diu haec res remansit inulta. Nam alii a daemone correpti, nonnulli in flumine Garonnae necati, multi etiam a frigora occupati, diversis in partibus diversorum morborum genere vexabantur. Nam vidi ex his multos in Turonico territurio, qui in hoc fuerant mixti scelere, graviter trucidari et usque ad vitae praesentis amissionem intolerabilium dolorum cruciatu torqueri. Multi enim ex his confitebantur, se iudicio Dei ob iniuriam martyris fuisse morti pessimae obstinatos. Ecce quantum Deus praestat martyribus suis! Ecce qualibus eosdem laudibus Christus dominus bellorum fidelium inspector honorat! Ecce quantum praestat ipsius nominis dignitas christiani, si non gentilium more aut inhiamus cupiditati aut luxoriae serviamus!

'Vincentius was a martyr at Agen, and the local inhabitants have an account of his suffering (passionis historia). In the church of Christ Vincentius sparkles with the brightness of his deacon's robe, and very often he shines out with great miracles. He is a harsh avenger against those who invade his possessions. Once when an army was raised against Gundovald and sent to Comrninges, these many enemies besieged the saint's church. The people were safe inside the church and entrusted the protection of all their possessions to respect for the martyr, because no one was presumptuous and rash enough to dare to touch them. After locking the doors they barricaded themselves inside with their possessions. The enemy surrounded the doors but could not find an opening through which they might enter; so they set fire to the doors of the church. Even after burning fiercely for a long time the doors were not taken until smashed by the blows of axes. The enemy entered, seized the possessions, and slaughtered the people inside with the edge of their swords. But not for long did this deed remain unavenged. Some of these men were possessed by a demon, some drowned in the Garonne river, many were stricken by a chill; in different ways they were afflicted by different types of diseases. For I saw in the territory of Tours many of those who had been involved in this crime. They were painfully destroyed and suffered to the end of their present lives from the torture of excruciating pains. Many of them confessed that because of the insult to the martyr they had been destined by the judgement of God for a horrible death. Behold how God provides for his martyrs! Behold with what praises Christ, the Lord and overseer of pious wars, honours them! Behold how distinguished is the dignity of that Christian name, so long as we do not imitate unbelievers in giving in to greed and serving luxury!'

Text: Krusch 1969, 108-109. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 98-99.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Vincent, martyr in Agen (Gaul), ob.? : S00432

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 - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Considerations about the nature of miracles

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Miraculous protection - of people and their property Miraculous protection - of church and church property Punishing miracle Power over life and death Miraculous interventions in war Specialised miracle-working

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives



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 episode took place in 585, during the campaign against the usurper Gundovald. Gregory in Histories 7.35 (E02265) tells the same story with some differences: in the Histories he says that the church's plate and ornaments were also looted, but does not mention the murder of people sheltering in the church. Both versions of the story testify to ordinary people's hope in the protection of the saints; vain in this case, divine vengeance being only retrospective.


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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