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E02025: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (2.16), recounts the procuring from Bologna (northern Italy) of relics of *Agricola and Vitalis (master and slave, martyrs of Bologna, S00310) for an impressive new church in Clermont (central Gaul), built by the bishop of Clermont, Namatius (c. 446-462). Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 575/594.

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posted on 2016-11-20, 00:00 authored by robert
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 2.16

Sanctus vero Namatius post obitum Rustici episcopi apud Arvernus in diebus illis octavus erat episcopus. Hic ecclesiam, qui nunc constat et senior infra murus civitatis habetur, suo studio fabricavit, habentem in longo pedes 150, in lato pedes 60, id est infra capso, in alto usque cameram pedes 50, inante absidam rotundam habens, ab utroque latere ascellas eleganti constructas opere; totumque aedificium in modum crucis habetur expositum. Habet fenestras 42, columnas 70, ostia 8. Terror namque ibidem Dei et claritas magna conspicitur, et vere plerumque inibi odor suavissimus quasi aromatum advenire a religiosis sentitur. Parietes ad altarium opere sarsurio ex multa marmorum genera exornatos habet. Exactum ergo in duodecimo anno beatus pontifex aedificium, Bononiae civitatem Italiae sacerdotes dirigit, ut ei reliquias sanctorum Agricolae et Vitalis exhibeant, quos pro nomine Christi Dei nostri manifestissime crucifixos esse cognovimus.

'After the death of Bishop Rusticus, the holy Namatius became the eighth bishop of Clermont. It was he who built by his own effort the church which still stands and which is considered to be the oldest within the city walls. It is one hundred and fifty feet long, sixty feet wide inside the nave and fifty feet high as far as the vaulting. It has a rounded apse at the end, and two wings (ascellae) of elegant design on either side. The whole building is constructed in the shape of a cross. It has forty-two windows, seventy columns and eight doorways. In it one is conscious of the fear of God and of a great brightness, and those at prayer are often aware of a most sweet and aromatic odour which is being wafted towards them. Round the sanctuary it has walls which are decorated with mosaic work made of many varieties of marble. When the building had been finished for a dozen years, the blessed bishop sent priests to Bologna, the city in Italy, to procure for him relics (reliquiae) of Saints Agricola and Vitalis, who we have known were most assuredly crucified in the name of Christ our Lord.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 64. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 131; lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Agricola, martyr of Bolonia (Italy), master of Vitalis, ob. 303/312 : S00310

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

Construction of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miraculous sound, smell, light

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries


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 Agricola and Vitalis, the cathedral church in Clermont, was built by Namatius, bishop of Clermont, in the mid 5th century. Here Gregory gives a description of the shape and dimension of the church; in his Glory of Martyrs 43 he describes in detail the story of the transfer of the relics of the martyrs to dedicate the church (see E07841). The feast of its dedication is listed in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum on 14 May (E04814). For more details, see Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1976, 85-89, and Prévot 1989, 32-33.


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. Prévot, F., "Clermont," in N. Gauthier and J.-Ch. Picard (eds.), Topographie chrétienne des cités de la Gaule des origines au milieu du VIIIe siècle, vol. 6: Provinces ecclésiastique de Bourges (Aquitania Prima) (Paris, 1989), 27-40. Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., Les monuments religieux de la Gaule d'après les œuvres de Grégoire de Tours (Paris, 1976).

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