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E02022: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (2.7), recounts a story, set in the mid 5th c., of a man seeing a vision in the church in Rome of *Peter (the Apostle, S00036), in which two men, almost certainly Peter and his companion the Apostle *Paul (S00008), promise to protect the general Aetius in response to his wife's prayers. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 575/594.

online resource
posted on 2016-11-20, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 2.7

His diebus Romam sonus adiit, Aetium in maximo discrimine inter falangas hostium laborare. Quo auditu uxor eius anxia atque maesta, assiduae basilicas sanctorum apostolorum adibat atque, ut virum suum de hac via reciperet sospitem, praecabatur. Quae cum die noctuque haec agerit, quadam nocte homo pauperculus, crapulatus a vino, in angulo basilicae beati Petri apostoli obdormivit. Clausis autem ex more usteis, a custodibus non est nanctus. De nocte vero consurgens, relucentibus per tota aedis spatia lychinis, pavore territus, aditum, per quem foris evaderit, quaerit. Verum ubi primi atque alterius ustei claustra pulsat et obserata cuncta cognoscit, solo decubuit, trepidus praestolans locum, ut, convenientibus ad matutinis hymnis populis, hic liber abscederit. Interea vidit duas personas se invicem venerabiliter salutantes sollicitusque de suis esse prosperetatibus. Tunc qui erat senior ita exorsus est: 'Uxoris Aeti lacrimas diutius sustenire non patior. Petit enim assiduae, ut virum suum de Galliis reducam incolomem, cum aliud exinde fuisset apud divinum iuditium praefinitum, sed tamen obtenui inmensam pietatem pro vita illius. Et ecce nunc illum propero viventem exinde reducturus! Verumtamen obtestor, ut qui haec audierit sileat arcanumque Dei vulgare non audeat, ne pereat velociter a terra'. Ille autem haec audiens, silire non potuit; sed mox inluciscente caelo omnia quae audierat matrisfamiliae pandit, expletisque sermonibus, lumen caruit oculorum.

'Soon afterwards the rumour reached Rome that Aetius was in great danger with the troops of the enemy all round him. When she heard this his wife was very anxious and distressed. She went frequently to the churches of the holy Apostles and prayed that she might have her husband back safe from this campaign. This she did by day and by night. One night a poor man, sodden with wine, was asleep in a corner of the church of Saint Peter. When the great doorways were closed according to custom, he was not noticed by the porters. In the middle of the night he got up. He was dazzled by the lamps shining bright in every part of the building and he looked everywhere for the exit, so that he could make his escape. He tugged at the bolts of first one doorway and then another, but, when he found that they were all closed, he lay down on the floor and anxiously awaited an opportunity of escaping from the building at the moment when the people should come together for their morning hymns. Then he noticed two men who saluted each other with great respect and asked how the other was prospering in his affairs. The older of the two began as follows: ‘I cannot bear any longer the tears of the wife of Aetius. She keeps on praying that I should bring her husband back safe from Gaul. God in His wisdom has decreed otherwise, but nevertheless I have obtained this immense concession that Aetius shall not be killed. Now I am hurrying off to bring him back alive. I order the man who has overheard this to keep his counsel and not be so rash as to reveal my secret, for otherwise he will die immediately.’ The poor man, of course, heard this, but he was not able to keep the secret. As soon as day dawned in the sky, he recounted what he had heard to the wife of Aetius. He had no sooner finished speaking when he became blind.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 49-50. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 117.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Paul, the Apostle : S00008 Peter the Apostle : S00036

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)


  • 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


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miraculous protection - of people and their property Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves)


Gregory of Tours wrote the Histories (Historiae) during his episcopate in Tours (573–594). They constitute the longest and most detailed historical work of the post-Roman West. Gregory's focus is Gaul under its Frankish kings, above all the territories of Tours and (to a lesser extent) Clermont, where he had been born and brought up. Much of his work tells of the years when, as bishop of an important see, he was himself centrally involved in Frankish politics. The Histories are often wrongly referred to as a History of the Franks. Although the work does contain a history of the rulers of Francia, it also includes much hagiographical material, and Gregory himself gave it the simple title the 'ten books of Histories' (decem libri historiarum), when he produced a list of his own writings (Histories 10.31). The Histories consist of ten books whose scope and contents differ considerably. Book 1 skims rapidly through world history, with biblical and secular material from the Creation to the death in AD 397 of Martin of Tours (Gregory’s hero and predecessor as bishop). It covers 5596 years. In Book 2, which covers 114 years, the focus moves firmly into Gaul, covering the years up to the death of Clovis in 511. Books 3 and 4, which cover 37 and 27 years respectively, then move fairly swiftly on, closing with the death of king Sigibert in 575. With Book 5, through to the final Book 10, the pace slows markedly, and the detail swells, with only between two and four years covered in each of the last six books, breaking off in 591. These books are organised in annual form, based on the regnal years of Childebert II (r. 575-595/6). There continues to be much discussion over when precisely Gregory wrote specific parts of the Histories, though there is general agreement that none of it was written before 575 and, of course, none of it after Gregory's death, which is believed to have occurred in 594. Essentially, scholars are divided over whether Gregory wrote the Histories sequentially as the years from 575 unfolded, with little or no revision thereafter, or whether he composed the whole work over the space of a few years shortly before his death and after 585 (see Murray 2015 for the arguments on both sides). For an understanding of the political history of the time, and Gregory's attitude to it, precisely when the various books were written is of great importance; but for what he wrote about the saints, the precise date of composition is of little significance, because Gregory's attitude to saints, their relics and their miracles did not change significantly during his writing-life. We have therefore chosen to date Gregory's writing of our entries only within the broadest possible parameters: with a terminus post quem of 575 for the early books of the Histories, and thereafter the year of the events described, and a terminus ante quem of 594, set by Gregory's death. (Bryan Ward-Perkins, David Lambert) For general discussions of the Histories see: Goffart, W., The Narrators of Barbarian History (A.D. 550–800): Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Bede, and Paul the Deacon (Princeton, 1988), 119–127. Murray, A.C., "The Composition of the Histories of Gregory of Tours and Its Bearing on the Political Narrative," in: A.C. Murray (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden and Boston, 2015), 63–101. Pizarro, J.M., "Gregory of Tours and the Literary Imagination: Genre, Narrative Style, Sources, and Models in the Histories," in: Murray, A Companion to Gregory of Tours, 337–374.


The identity of the two saints seen in this vision is not explicitly spelled out; but they were surely the Apostles Peter and Paul. For the narrative about the invasion of Gaul by the Huns in which this story is embedded, see E07740.


Edition: Krusch, B., and Levison, W., Gregorii episcopi Turonensis Libri historiarum X (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum I.1; 2nd ed.; Hannover, 1951). Translation: Thorpe, L., Gregory of Tours, The History of the Franks (Penguin Classics; London, 1974). Further reading: Murray, A.C., "The Composition of the Histories of Gregory of Tours and Its Bearing on the Political Narrative", in: A.C. Murray (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden-Boston 2015), 63-101. Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., Les monuments religieux de la Gaule d'après les œuvres de Grégoire de Tours (Paris, 1976).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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