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E00721: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Confessors, describes two miracles at Troyes (north-east Gaul) in which the power of *Lupus (bishop of Troyes, ob. 479, S00418) punishes slave owners who try to prevent their slaves gaining sanctuary; on one occasion this is through a helper, Aventinus. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 587/588.

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posted on 2015-09-20, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Confessors 66-67

(66.) Lupum antestitem apud Tricassinorum Campaniae urbem sepultum, nulli habetur incognitum. Ad cuius basilicam Mauri cuiusdam servus, neglegentia admissa, confugit. Frendens vero dominus eius de vestigio prosecutus, ingressus basilicam nec orationi prostratus, blasphemias in sanctum evomere coepit ac dicere: 'En tu, Lupe, servum meum auferes, et propter te non licebit mihi in eum ultionem debitam exercere?' Et iniecta manu, servum trahere coepit, dicens: 'Non mittit hodie hic Lupus manum suam de sepulchro, ut eruat te de manibus meis'. Haec dicente misero, extemplo lingua, quae in sanctum blasphemias effudit, divinitus obligatur, atque mutatus homo debacchare coepit per totam aedem, dans mugitum ut pecus, sermonem ut homo non proferens. Cumque haec suis nuntiata fuissent, adprehensum duxerunt ad domum suam. Uxor vero eius multa munera in basilicam posuit; sed hic tertia die cum gravi cruciatu vitam finivit. Quo defuncto, mulier quae dederat recipit; servus tamen permansit ingenuus.

(67.) Huic antestiti famulabatur Aventinus quidam religiosus, ad quem post huius obitum captivi fecere confugium. Quorum domino Aventinus pretium obtulit. Sed ille obligans se sacramento, ait: 'Numquam haec nisi in pago meo sum accepturus'. Deditque dexteram suam, quod, si hic pecuniam transmitteret, iste confestim captivus [sic] a vinculo servitutis absolveret. Transmisso itaque pretio, oblitus dominus fidei suae, dum captivos absolvere dissimulat, ipse ligatur. Nam statim summitas digiti de manu quae fidem fecerat dolere graviter coepit. Deinde paulatim dolor adcrescens, per manum brachiumque totum extenditur. Quid plura? Truncatum ad ipsam iuncturam cubiti brachium cum cecidit , et hic spiritum exalavit. Uxor vero eius post haec voluit eos iterum ad servitium revocare; sed capitis dolore percussa, virum secuta est. Et sic hii ingenuitate perpetua absque ullius scripturae munitione manserunt.

'(66.) No one is ignorant that Bishop Lupus is buried in the city of Troyes in Champagne. To his church fled the slave of a certain Maurus, after admitting to negligence. Raging, his master pursued his tracks, entered the church, and did not prostrate himself in prayer, but began to vomit out blasphemies against the saint and to say: "Hey you, Lupus, are you going to take away my slave, and because of you will I not be allowed to carry out against him the vengeance owed?" And putting out his hand he began to drag away the slave, saying: "Not today is this Lupus sending out his hand from the tomb, so that he can pluck you from my hands". When the miserable man was saying these things, immediately his tongue, which poured out blasphemies against the saint, was bound by divine power, and the man was changed and began to run mad through the whole church, lowing like a farm animal, not speaking like a human being. When these things were announced to his household they seized him and led him to his house. His wife took many gifts to the church, but on the third day he ended his life in great torment. When he was dead his wife took back what she had given; however, the slave remained free.

(67.) This bishop was served by Aventinus, a certain man of religion, with whom, after the bishop's death, captives took refuge. Aventinus offered a payment to their master. But he, binding himself with an oath, said: "I am never going to accept this except in my district." He offered his right hand that if Aventinus sent the money, he would immediately free the captives from the bondage of servitude. When the payment was sent, the master forgot his oath; while he pretended to release the captives, he himself was bound. For immediately the tip of a finger of the hand that had made the oath began to hurt severely. Then bit by bit the increasing pain was spread through his hand and his whole arm. What more is there to say? Although he hacked off his arm, severed at the very joint of the elbow, he still exhaled his spirit. His wife, after this, again wanted to call them back to slavery, but, struck with a pain in the head, she followed her husband. And thus they remained in perpetual freedom, without the protection of any document.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 337-338. Translation: David Lambert.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Lupus, bishop of Troyes : S00418

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles


  • 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

Seeking asylum at church/shrine

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Uncertainty/scepticism/rejection of a saint

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Punishing miracle Freeing prisoners, exiles, captives, slaves

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Slaves/ servants Aristocrats Ecclesiastics – unspecified Ecclesiastics - bishops


Gregory, of a prominent Clermont family with extensive ecclesiastical connections, was bishop of Tours from 573 until his death (probably in 594). He 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. Gregory probably wrote the greater part of the Glory of the Confessors (Liber in Gloria Confessorum) between late 587 and mid-588, since in ch. 6 he tells us that he has already written three books on the miracles of Martin (and the last datable miracle in Book 3 of his Miracles of Martin occurred in November 587), while in ch. 93 he tells us that Charimeris, who became bishop of Verdun in 588, was 'now' a royal referendary (so not yet a bishop). It is, however, likely that Gregory was collecting and recording these stories throughout his life, and for our purposes precise dating is not of great importance, since Gregory's views on the role of saints and the correct ways to venerate them do not seem to have changed during his writing life. (On the dating of the work, see Van Dam 2004, xii; Shaw 2016, 105.) The last two chapters (109 and 110), in which divine punishment falls on avaricious merchants in a manner that is not focused on a particular 'confessor', do not sit comfortably with the rest of the work, and, even more tellingly, near the end there are three chapters with headings but no content (105, 106 and 107, $E02777). Consequently Krusch suggested (and this hypothesis has been widely accepted) that the work was left in an incomplete state, its final completion and editing being prevented by Gregory's death. As Gregory himself makes clear in his Preface (where he lists his eight works of hagiography), the Glory of the Confessors (just like his Glory of the Martyrs) is not about the lives of his saints, but is a collection of their miracle-stories: 'This, the eighth [book], we have written on the miracles of Confessors' (Octavum hunc scribimus de miraculis confessorum). Occasionally we do learn something about the lives of the men and women that he includes, but for the most part we are just given their name and, sometimes, religious status ('bishop', 'abbot', 'hermit', or whatever) and a description of a miracle (or miracles) that Gregory attributes to them. The large majority of these miracles are posthumous (in Life of the Fathers 2.2 Gregory expresses a preference for posthumous miracles, over miracles in life, as reliable indicators of sanctity - see $E00023). Elsewhere in his work (in the preface to his Life of Illidius, in Life of the Fathers), Gregory provides a definition of a 'confessor': someone who had taken up 'various crosses of abstinence' (diversas abstinentiae cruces) to live the Christian life. But here in Glory of the Confessors, the category is in practice much more broadly drawn, to include any individual able to effect a miracle, who wasn't a martyr; in many cases Gregory knew nothing about the life of the confessor, only about one or more miracles, for the most part posthumous and at the tomb. For Gregory, anyone with an attested miracle (he would, presumably, have said 'reliably attested') was a 'confessor' and could be included in this work. Consequently, a remarkable number of extremely shadowy figures feature. To take a few examples: a man buried in a tomb in Clermont, from which scrapings of dust cured people (ch. 35, $E02595); a chaste but loving couple of Clermont, whose sarcophagi miraculously moved to be next to each other (ch. 31, $E02583); and three priests of the village of Aire-sur-l'Ardour, whose graves were slowly rising out of the ground (ch. 51, $E02640). In all of these cases, and several more besides, Gregory could not even put reliable names to the confessors concerned. Gregory's interest was not in the people, but in the miraculous that manifested itself around holy individuals: for instance, in ch.96 ($E02755) he tells the story of a hermit whose only recorded miracle was his ability to cook his food over a blazing fire in a wooden pot; Gregory uses the story as an example of how God makes even the elements of nature obey the needs of the holy. Only occasionally does Gregory name his informants. But it is clear that many of his stories derived from his own observations in Clermont and Tours, and from what he heard from visitors to Tours, and on his own travels; Gregory had visited large numbers of the shrines he described, had venerated many of these saints' relics, and had even been a participant at a few of the events described. Because Gregory was so inclusive in those he ranked as 'confessors', his text is rich in evidence of cults emerging around some very obscure figures, as long as people (including Gregory) believed they had miraculous powers from their graves. In many cases these cults were probably short-lived; but in a few cases they appear to have become at least semi-institutionalised: for instance, two otherwise wholly unknown virgins, buried on a hill in the Touraine, persuaded a man to build a stone oratory over their graves, and also persuaded the then bishop of Tours to come and bless it (ch. 18, $E02561), and a young girl of the Paris region, about whom nothing but her name and pious epitaph were known, acquired a considerable reputation as a healer (particularly of toothache), and again a stone oratory over her grave (ch. 103, $E02767). Unlike the Glory of the Martyrs, which includes many martyrs from beyond Gaul, almost all the saintly figures in Glory of the Confessors are Gallic: the sole exceptions are, from Syria, Symeon the Stylite (ch. 26, $E02579), and, from Italy, Eusebius of Vercelli and Paulinus of Nola (chs. 3 and 108, $E02453 and $E02778). Within Gaul, after miracles involving angels, Hilary of Poitiers and Eusebius of Vercelli (chs. 1-3), the confessors are bunched together by their city-territory, in other words where they were buried (which in almost all cases is also where the recorded miracles occurred). There is no logic to the order in which Gregory presented these cities, beyond the fact that he placed the two cities he knew most about, Tours (chs. 4-25) and Clermont (chs. 29-35) very close to the start. At the end of the book, from ch. 90, saints appear from city-territories that have already been covered earlier in the work (chs. 90 and 100, Bourges; ch. 96, Autun; chs. 101-102, Limoges; ch. 103, Paris; ch. 104, Poitiers) – the most likely explanation is that these are saints that Gregory added after he had written the greater part of the book. There are some digressions in the book, as we would expect in a work by the discursive Gregory – for instance, a miracle story of Martin set in Visigothic Spain (ch. 12) leads Gregory into two stories on the spiritual powerlessness of Arian priests (chs. 13 and 14) – but there are fewer digressions than in Gregory's parallel work, the Glory of the Martyrs. There is a good general discussion of Glory of the Confessors in Van Dam 2004, ix-xxi, and of Gregory's hagiography more widely in Shaw 2015. (Bryan Ward-Perkins)


In this part of Glory of the Confessors, Gregory of Tours describes two punishment miracles against slave owners who tried to prevent their slaves from gaining asylum at the church of Lupus of Troyes (on the right of asylum in Gallic churches, see Beaujard 2000, 447-448). The first incident (ch. 66) is placed by Gregory in the church where Lupus was buried, but with no indication of when the event took place. A slave takes refuge in the church; his owner, a man named Maurus, attempts to remove him by force, and is miraculously subjected to fatal punishment. Gregory's account is notable for the blunt contempt for Lupus and his power expressed by Maurus, and also for his statement that Maurus' wife attempted to avert his death by donating gifts to the church, but took them back when this was unsuccessful. The second incident (ch. 67) involves an individual named Aventinus, described by Gregory as 'a certain man of religion' (quidam religiosus) who 'served this bishop', i.e. Lupus (huic antestiti famulabatur). At some point after Lupus' death in 479, a group of 'captives' (captivi) took refuge with Aventinus, who agreed to pay their owner for them, with the owner swearing an oath that he would accept payment. In this case, the miraculous punishment takes place when the owner reneges on the deal, thus breaking his oath. While similar in outline, the two incidents differ in their details. The slave in the first appears to be a domestic servant, while in the second the multiple 'captives' involved, and the reference to a country district (pagus, possibly 'landed estate'), give an impression rather of rural coloni, perhaps prisoners taken in war or raiding. In the first incident, Gregory's focus is very much on the physical setting of the church and the violence of Maurus' attempt to break its sanctuary; in the second, the place of refuge is not mentioned, and the punishment is as much for breaking an oath as for refusing to recognise the church's sanctuary. While Aventinus is the protagonist in Gregory's narrative of the second incident, it does not appear that Gregory saw him as a saint or attributed the miracle to him. His only description of Aventinus is the neutral quidam religiosus. If the two miracles are taken together, they both appear as manifestations of the power of Lupus, with the involvement of Aventinus in the second one being merely incidental. Aventinus eventually came to be venerated as a saint at Troyes, but the earliest evidence for this dates from the 9th century. Gregory's account of the punishment of Maurus is one of three pieces of literary evidence for the existence in the 6th century of a church at Troyes dedicated to Lupus. The others are the reference to exorcisms taking place there in the letter of Nicetius of Trier to Queen Chlodosinda, dating from the 560s (E00674), and the account in the Chronicle of Fredegar of three Merovingian kings meeting in the church to swear oaths in 574 (E00701). The church is not mentioned in the roughly contemporaneous Life of Lupus (E00673). Since the only reference to Lupus himself in the narrative is to the fact that he was buried at Troyes, it is not clear whether Gregory was familiar with the Life of Lupus.


Edition: Krusch, B., Gregorii Turonensis Opera. 2: Miracula et opera minora (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum I.2; 2nd ed.; Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 1969). Translation: Van Dam, R., Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Confessors (Translated Texts for Historians 5; 2nd ed., Liverpool, 2004). Further reading: Beaujard, B., Le Culte des saints en Gaule. Les premiers temps. D’Hilaire de Poitiers à la fin du VIe siècle (Histoire religieuse de la France 15; Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 2000). Pietri, L., "Troyes," in: N. Gauthier and J.-C. Picard (eds.), Topographie chrétienne des cités de la Gaule des origines au milieu du VIIIe siècle, vol. 8: Province ecclésiastique de Sens (Lugdunensis Senonia) (Paris: Boccard, 1992), 67-80. 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. Van Dam, R., "Introduction," in: Idem (trans.), Gregory of Tours. Glory of the Confessors (Translated Texts for Historians 5; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1988).

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