University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E02023: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (2.14), records how Perpetuus, bishop of Tours (c. 458-489), built a large new church over the tomb of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, 00050), because of the success of his cult; and used part of the old chapel for a new church of the Apostles *Peter and *Paul (S00036 and S00008). Gregory stresses the importance of 4 July as a threefold feast: the day of Martin's ordination as bishop of Tours, of the dedication of the new church, and of the translation into it of the saint's body; 11 November is the feast of Martin's death. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 575/594.

online resource
posted on 2016-11-20, 00:00 authored by robert
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 2.14

Apud urbem vero Turonicam, defuncto Eustochio episcopo septimo decimo sacerdotii sui anno, quintus post beatum Martinum Perpetuus ordinatur. Qui cum virtutes assiduas ad sepulchrum eius fieri cerneret, cellulam, quae super eum fabricata fuerat, videns parvulam, indignam talibus miraculis iudicavit. Qua submota, magnam ibi basilicam, quae usque hodie permanet, fabricavit, quae habetur a civitate passus 550. Habet in longo pedes 160, in lato 60, habet in alto usque ad cameram pedes 45; fenestras in altario 32, in capso 20; columnas 41; in toto aedificio fenestras 52, columnas 120; ostia 8, tria in altario, quinque in capso. Sollemnitas enim ipsius basilicae triplici virtute pollet: id est dedicatione templi, translatione corporis sancti vel ordinatione eius episcopati. Hanc enim quarto Nonas Iulias observabis; depositionem vero eius tertio Idus Novembris esse cognoscas. Quod si fideliter celebraveris, et in praesenti saeculo et in futuro patrocinia beati antistitis promereberis. Et quoniam camera cellulae illius prioris eleganti opere fuerat fabricata, indignum duxit sacerdos, ut opera eius deperiret, sed in honore beatorum apostolorum Petri et Pauli aliam construxit basilicam, in qua cameram illam adfixit.

'In the city of Tours Bishop Eustochius died in the seventeenth year of his episcopate. Perpetuus was consecrated in his place, being the fifth bishop after Saint Martin. When Perpetuus saw how frequently miracles were being performed at Saint Martin’s tomb and when he observed how small was the chapel erected over the Saint's body, he decided that it was unworthy of these wonders. He had the chapel removed and he built in its place the great church which is still there some five hundred and fifty yards outside the city. It is one hundred and sixty feet long by sixty feet broad: and its height up to the beginning of the vaulting is forty-five feet. It has thirty-two windows in the sanctuary and twenty in the nave, with forty-one columns. In the whole building there are fifty-two windows, one hundred and twenty columns and eight doorways, three in the sanctuary and five in the nave. The great festival of the church has a threefold significance: it marks the dedication of the building, the translation of the Saint's body and his ordination as a bishop. You should observe this feast-day on 4 July; and you should remember that Saint Martin died on 11 November. If you celebrate this faithfully you will gain the protection of the saintly Bishop in this world and the next. The vault (camera) of the small chapel which stood there before was most elegantly designed, and so Bishop Perpetuus thought it wrong to destroy it. He built another church (basilica) in honour of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and he fitted this vault over it.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 63-64. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 130-131.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, bishop of Tours (Gaul), ob. 397 : S00050 Peter the Apostle : S00036 Paul, the Apostle : S00008

Saint Name in Source

Martinus Petrus Paulus

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 - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Construction of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Unspecified miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


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 church of Peter and Paul was constructed by Bishop Perpetuus about AD 470 and located to the south of Martin's church. It can be identified with the present church of Saint-Pierre-du-Trésor (Vieillard-Troiekouroff, p. 324-325). The church of Martin: The first small church (basilica parvula) over the tomb of Martin in Tours was built by Bricius, the fourth bishop of Tours, about AD 443/444 (Histories 10.31, E02389) and was originally dedicated to Peter and Paul. This was the beginning of Martin’s cult in Tours, fifty years after his death. Bricius was also the first bishop who was buried in the church over Martin’s tomb (Histories 10.31), and the building became the funeral church for the bishops of Tours. About AD 470 Perpetuus, the sixth bishop of Tours, removed the old chapel (cellula) and built a great church in its place. The vault (camera) from the old chapel was removed to a new church of the Apostles Peter and Paul, also built by Perpetuus (Histories 2.14, E02023; Histories 10.31, E02391). Miracles that occurred at the tomb of Martin were recorded by Sulpicius Severus, and later versified by Paulinus of Périgueux (Miracles of Martin 1.2, E02802), at the request of Perpetuus. Paulinus of Périgueux and Sidonius Apollinaris were also asked for poems to write on the walls of the church. Perpetuus instituted a new feast to celebrate three separate events: the dedication of the church, the translation of Martin’s body, and his ordination as a bishop. This was observed on 4 July (Histories 2.14, E02023; Miracles of Martin 1.6, E02805), while 11 November (the day of Martin's mortal death) continued to be celebrated as his principal feast. Perpetuus’ works brought about a revision of Martin's image, ensuring that the saint, as well as being celebrated as an ascetic and miracle-worker, started to be venerated as a holy bishop, with the bishops of Tours as the guardians of his cult. The new church also replaced the cathedral as the place where the majority of liturgies were celebrated. In AD 558 the church was burnt by Willichar and then roofed with tin by Eufronius, the eighteenth bishop of Tours, with financial help from King Chlothar, who came to Tours with many gifts in 561 (Histories 4.20-21, E02066 and E02099; Histories 10.31, E02418). In the church-complex of Martin, there were at least two courtyards (atria): western and eastern (Miracles of Martin 2.30, E03135). Off the western courtyard was the baptistery, where vigils on the Nativity of John the Baptist were held (Histories 10.31, E02392) and where relics of the Baptist were probably kept (Glory of the Martyrs 14, E00466). The church was decorated with frescoes (Histories 7.22). The tomb of Martin was located in the eastern apse – absida tumuli (Miracles of Martin 2.47, E03301). It was covered with a marble lid that was sent by Eufronius, priest and later bishop of Autun, about AD 470/475 (Histories 2.15, E02024). On the lid was a cloth – palla – which was treated as a powerful contact relic, often able to effect healing (Histories 5.48, E02176; Miracles of Martin 2.54, E03309; Miracles of Martin 4.43, E04634, Miracles of Martin 2.60, E03484). For further information see: 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, 1987), 19-39. Van Dam R., Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, 1993), 13–28. Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., "Le tombeau de saint Martin retrouvé en 1860," Revue d'histoire de l'Église de France 144 (1961), 151–183. Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., "La basilique de Saint-Martin de Tours de Perpetuus (470) d'apres les fouilles archeologiques," in: Évolution générale et développements régionaux en histoire de l'art: actes du XXIIe Congrés international d'histoire de l'art, Budapest 1969, vol. 2 (Budapest, 1972). Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., Les monuments religieux de la Gaule d'après les œuvres de Grégoire de Tours (Paris, 1976), 311–324.


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. 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. Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., Les monuments religieux de la Gaule d'après les œuvres de Grégoire de Tours (Paris, 1976).

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager