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E02029: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (2.37), recounts a miracle in 507, with which *Maxentius (saintly abbot, ob. c. 515, S01144) protected from soldiers his monastery near Poitiers (western Gaul); Gregory mentions a Life of Maxentius, with record of many other miracles. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 575/594.

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posted on 2016-11-20, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 2.37

Erat in his diebus vir laudabilis sanctitatis Maxentius abba, reclausus in monastyrio suo ob Dei timore infra terminum Pictavensim. Cuius monastyrio nomen lectioni non indidimus, quia locus ille usque hodie Cellula sancti Maxenti vocatur. Cuius monachi cum unum hostium cuneum ad monastyrium cernerent propinquare, abbatem exorant, ut de cellola sua egrederetur ad consolandum eos. Illoque demorante, hii timore perculsi, eum aperto ustio de cellola sua producunt. At ille in occursum hostium, quasi pacem rogaturus, perget intrepidus. Unus autem ex his evaginato gladio, ut capud eius libraret, manus ad aurem erecta diriguit, gladiusque retrursum ruit. Ad ipse ad pedes beati viri veniam deposcens sternitur. Quod videntes reliqui, cum timore maximo ad exercitum redierunt, timentes, ne et ipse pariter interirent. Huius vero brachium beatus confessor cum oleo benedicto contrectans, inposito signo crucis, restituit sanum, eiusque obtentu monastyrio permansit inlaesum. Multasque et alias virtutes operatus est, quas si quis diligenter inquiret, librum Vitae illius legens cuncta repperiet.

'At that time in the territory of Poitiers there dwelt a saintly abbot called Maxentius, who lived as a God-fearing recluse in his monastery. There is no point in my giving the name of the monastery, as it is now called the Cell of Saint Maxentius. When the monks saw a squadron of troops coming nearer and nearer to their monastery they begged their Abbot to come out of his cell to console them. He was a long time coming, and they were so frightened that they burst the door open and pushed him out of his cell. He showed no fear. He walked towards the troops, as if to seek their peace. One of the soldiers drew his sword to strike Maxentius over the head. His arm went stiff on a level with the saint’s ear and his sword fell to the ground. The soldier in question knelt at the saint’s feet and asked his forgiveness. When his companions saw what had happened, they rushed back to the army in great consternation, for they were afraid that they might all pay for it with their lives. The blessed saint rubbed the man’s arm with holy oil, made the sign of the Cross over him, and he immediately recovered. As a result of what Maxentius had done the monastery remained unharmed. He performed many other miracles, as the diligent reader will discover if he peruses the abbot’s Life.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 86-87. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 152-153; lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Maxentius, abbot in Poitiers, ob. c. AD 515 : S01144

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

Place associated with saint's life

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Other

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Healing diseases and disabilities Miraculous protection - other

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - abbots Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Soldiers


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.


There are two Vitae Sancti Maxentii, but both appear to be later than the time of Gregory of Tours. See Mabillon, Acta sanctorum ordinis S. Benedicti, in sæculorum classes distributa. Saeculum I, Lutetiae Parisiorum, 1668, 578-580.


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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