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E00674: Bishop Nicetius of Trier (eastern Gaul), describes the posthumous healing power of the Gallic saints *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050), *Germanus (bishop of Auxerre, ob. c. 448, S00455), *Lupus (bishop of Troyes, ob. 479, S00418), *Hilary (bishop of Poitiers, ob. 367, S00183), *Remigius (bishop of Reims, ob. c. 533, S00456), and *Medard (bishop of Noyon buried at Soissons, ob. 557/558, S00168), and contrasts this with the alleged absence of miracles in Arian churches. Letter to Chlodosinda, Queen of the Lombards, written in Latin, presumably at Trier, between 561 and 569.

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posted on 2015-09-03, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Nicetius of Trier, letter to Queen Chlodosinda (Epistolae Austrasicae 8)

The purpose of Nicetius' letter is to call upon Chlodosinda, a Frankish princess who had married Alboin, King of the Lombards, to persuade her husband to become a Nicene rather than an Arian. This passage follows on immediately from the argument put forward by Nicetius that relics and churches dedicated to the saints are ineffective for Arians (E00747).

Hic si iubet ad domnum Martinum per festivitate sua, quod undecima dies facit November, ipsos mittat, et ibi, si audent, aliquid praesumant, ubi caecos hodie inluminare conspicimus, ubi surdis auditum et mutis sanitatem recipere. Nam quid dicam de leprosos aut de alios quam plures, qui quanta et quanta debilitate percussi sunt, ibidem per singulos annos – sed per singulos annos alii et alii – sanantur? Et fortasse dicunt: Confingunt vel caecos. Quia caeci a natiivitate esse videntur, quid dicunt, cum inde inluminatos conspicimus et ad propria, Deo miserante, sanos reverti videmus? Nam quid dicam adhuc de domni Germani, Hilari vel Lupi episcopis, ubi tanta mirabilia hodie apparent, quantum nec dicere verbis valeo; ubi tribulantes, id est demonia habentes, in aera suspensi torquuntur et dominos, quos dixi, esse confitentur? Numquid in ecclesias eorum sic faciunt? Non faciunt, quia Deum et dominos sanctos ibi habitare non sentiunt: daemon daemonem non exorcizat; nam ubi sancti habitant, daemon vagari non dimittitur. Ideo fit, ut locus, ubi Deus est, ostendatur. Quid de domno Remegio et domno Medardo episcopis, quos tu, credo, videres? Non possumus tanta exponere, quanta mirabilia per illos Deum videmus facere.

'If he [Alboin] orders, let him send his men to the lord Martin during his feast, which is on the eleventh day of November, and, if they dare, let them venture to do something there, where every day we see the blind receive their sight, the deaf their hearing, and the dumb their health. What shall I say of lepers or of many others, who, no matter with what sickness they are afflicted, are healed there year after year? Perhaps they will say: "They are pretending to be blind". What do they say when they are seen to have been blind from birth, when we see them receive sight there, through God's mercy, returning healed to their own place? What shall I say of the lord bishops Germanus, Hilary, or Lupus, where so many wonders occur every day, so great that I cannot express them in words: where the afflicted (that is, having demons) are suspended and whirled round in the air and confess those I have named to be their masters? Do such things happen in their [the Arians'] churches? They do not happen, because the demons do not feel that God and the holy lords (dominos sanctos) dwell there: demon does not exorcise demon. But no demon is permitted to rove where the saints dwell. So it is that the place where God is found is made clear. What of the lord bishops Remigius and Medard, whom you, I believe, saw? We cannot set out how many wonders we see God do through them.'

Nicetius goes on to call on Chlodosinda to imitate the role of her grandmother Clotilde in the conversion of her husband Clovis, and to describe how seeing the miracles at the festival of Martin prompted Clovis's baptism (E00760).

Text: Gundlach 1892, 121, lines 24-38. Translation: Hillgarth 1986, 80, adapted.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Lupus, bishop of Troyes : S00418 Martin, bishop of Tours (Gaul), ob. 397 : S00050 Medard of Soissons, bishop of Vermandois/Noyon in Gaul, ob. 557/558 : S00168 Hilary, bishop of Poitiers, ob. 368 : S00183 Germanus, bishop of Auxerre (ob. c. 448) :

Saint Name in Source

Lupus Martinus Medardus Hilarius Germanus Remegius

Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters


  • 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)

Trier Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - unspecified

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Exorcism Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


Letter from Bishop Nicetius of Trier to Chlodosinda (Hlodosuinda/Chlodosuinth/Clotsind), a Frankish princess (daughter of Chlothar I) who had married the Lombard king Alboin. The letter was written after the marriage of Chlodosinda and Alboin in 561; its terminus ante quem is provided by the deaths of both Chlodosinda and Nicetius himself in the late 560s (though in neither case at a date which is known precisely). The letter survives as part of the collection of letters from early Frankish Gaul known as the Epistolae Austrasicae (Austrasian Letters). The letter seeks to inspire Chlodosinda to persuade Alboin to become a Catholic rather than an Arian. Alboin's religious position is not entirely clear, and it has often been assumed that he was already an Arian, but it seems more probable that he was a pagan considering converting to Arianism, or wavering between Arianism and Catholicism (see Fanning 1981, 245-246, and for a recent survey of scholarship, Majocchi 2014, 231-234). Nicetius begins by denouncing Alboin's willingness to receive and tolerate those who 'preach two Gods' (duos deos praedicant). He then puts forward various arguments against Arianism, which he suggests Chlodosinda should use to persuade her husband. Some of these are theological, based on biblical passages which Nicetius alleges are incompatible with Arianism, or on the alleged logical incoherence of Arian soteriology. He also calls on Chlodesinda to imitate the role of her grandmother Hrodehildis (Clotilde) in persuading her husband Clovis to convert to Catholic Christianity. There are two passages in the letter (this one and $E00747), in which Nicetius puts forward arguments based on the power of saints and relics, as well as a reference to the role of Martin's miracles in the conversion of Clovis ($E00760).


In this passage, Nicetius cites no fewer than six Gallic saints (Martin, Germanus, Hilary, Lupus, Remigius, and Medard) whose miracles he claims provide visible proof that God is present in Catholic churches, while the absence of such miracles demonstrates his absence from Arian churches. All the saints mentioned by Nicetius were bishops. Nicetius begins with Martin of Tours, suggesting that Alboin should send men to observe the celebrations at Tours of his feast day (festivitas) on 11 November. Nicetius claims that it is a regular event for blind, deaf, or mute people to be healed on this occasion, as well as people suffering from leprosy and other illnesses. Nicetius gives a vivid impression of the popularity of Martin's cult at Tours, a generation before its depiction in the works of Gregory of Tours. (For an account of Martin's church at Tours in this period, see Pietri 1987, 32-34.) Nicetius then moves on to 'the lord bishops Germanus, Hilarius, and Lupus', evidently Germanus of Auxerre (ob. 448), Lupus of Troyes (ob. 479), and almost certainly Hilary of Poitiers (ob. 367), who in the 6th century formed the second rank of episcopal saints in Gaul after Martin. The bracketing of Hilarius with the 5th century saints Germanus and Lupus might suggest that Nicetius had in mind their contemporary *Hilary of Arles (ob. 449, S00435); however, there is no evidence of any cult for Hilary of Arles in this period, while Hilary of Poitiers was widely venerated. As regards their powers as saints, Nicetius claims that when those possessed by demons were in the throes of exorcism (tribulantes ... in aera suspensi torquuntur), the demons confessed that it was the power of the named saints which mastered them. Though Nicetius does not spell this out precisely, the implication is that the exorcisms took place in the churches where these saints were buried, or in other churches dedicated to them. Nicetius draws the anti-Arian conclusion that such events cannot occur in Arian churches because God and the saints are absent from them. Finally, Nicetius alludes more casually to Remigius and Medard, saying merely that he cannot describe the extent of the miracles God carries out through them. The lifetimes of Remigius and Medard were more recent than those of the other saints mentioned: indeed, Medard's death (c. 560) occurred not long before the letter was written. Remigius' death (probably in the early 530s) was more distant, but still within living memory. It is notable that Nicetius states that Chlodosinda had 'seen' Remigius and Medard (quos tu, credo, videres). If Nicetius means that Chlodosinda had literally seen them when they were still alive, this would be unproblematic in the case of Medard, but if true of Remigius it would imply that she was much older than she is usually assumed to be. This makes it likely that Nicetius means only that she had seen their shrines. After this passage, Nicetius calls on Chlodosinda to imitate the role of her grandmother, Queen Clotild (Hrodehildis), in the conversion of her husband, the Frankish king Clovis, and makes an otherwise unattested claim for the role of the miracles of Martin in Clovis's conversion (see E00760).


Editions: Gundlach, W., Epistolae Austrasicae, in: Epistolae Merowingici et Karolini Aevi (Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Epistolae 3; Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1892), 119-122. Malaspina, E., Il "Liber epistolarum" della cancellaria austrasica (sec. V-VI) (Biblioteca di cultura romanobarbarica 4; Rome: Herder, 2001), 87-97, with Italian translation and commentary. Partial English translation: Hillgarth, J.N., Christianity and Paganism, 350-750: The Conversion of Western Europe (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986), 79-80. Further reading: Fanning, S.C., "Lombard Arianism Reconsidered," Speculum 56:2 (1981), 241-258. Majocchi, P., "Arrianorum abolevit heresem: The Lombards and the Ghost of Arianism," in G.M. Berndt and R. Steinacher (eds.), Arianism: Roman Heresy and Barbarian Creed (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014), 231-238. Pietri, L., "Tours," in: N. Gauthier and J.-Ch. Picard (eds.), Topographie chrétienne des cités de la Gaule des origines au milieu du VIIIe siècle, vol. 5: Province ecclésiastique de Tours (Lugdunensis Tertia) (Paris: Boccard, 1987), 19-39.

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