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E02063: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (3.28), tells how *Clotild (queen and widow of Clovis, ob. 545, S01186) prayed successfully at the tomb in Tours of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050), to prevent civil war amongst her sons; AD 533/542. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 575/594.

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posted on 2016-12-02, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 3.28

Childeberthus autem et Theodoberthus commoventes exercitum, contra Chlothacharium ire disponunt. Ille autem haec audiens, aestimans, se horum exercitum non sustenire, in silva confugit et concides magnas in silvas illas fecit, totamque spem suam in Dei pietate transfundens. Sed et Chrodichildis regina haec audiens, beati Martini sepulchrum adiit, ibique in oratione prosternitur et tota nocte vigilat, orans, ne inter filios suos bellum civile consurgeret. Cumque hi venientes cum exercitibus suis eum obsederent, tractantes illum die sequenti interficere, mane facto, in loco, quo erant congregati, orta tempestas tentoria dissicit, res diripit et cuncta subvertit; inmixtaque fulgora cum tonitruis ac lapidibus super eos discendunt. Ipse quoque super infectam grandine humum in facie proruunt et a lapidibus decedentibus graviter verberantur - nullum enim eis tegumen remanserat nisi parmae tantum-, hoc maxime metuentes, ne ab ignibus caelestibus cremarentur. Sed et equites eorum ita dispersi sunt, ut vix in vicinsimo quoque repperirentur stadio; multi enim ex eis prorsus non sunt inventi. Tunc illi a lapidibus, ut diximus, caesi et humo prostrati, paenitentiam agebant ac veniam praecabantur Deo, quod ista contra sanguinem suum agere voluissent. Super Chlothacharium vero neque una quidem pluviae gutta decidit aut aliquis sonitus tonitrui est auditus, sed nec anilitum ullius venti in illo loco sinserunt. Hi quoque mittentes nuntius ad eum, pacem et concordiam petierunt. Qua data, ad propria sunt regressi. Quod nullus ambigat, hanc per obtentum reginae beati Martini fuisse virtutem.

'Childebert and Theudebert assembled an army and prepared to march against Chlothar. When he heard of this he realized that he was not strong enough to resist their combined forces. He took to the woods, built a great circle of barricades among the trees and put his trust in the mercy of God. When Queen Clotild learned what was happening, she went to the tomb of Saint Martin, prostrated herself in prayer, and spent the whole night praying that civil war might not break out between her sons. Childebert and Theudebert advanced with their troops, surrounded Chlothar's position and planned to kill him in the morning. When day dawned a great storm blew up over the spot where they were encamped. Their tents were blown down, their equipment was scattered and everything was overturned. There was thunder and lightning, and they were bombarded with hailstones. They threw themselves on their faces on the ground where the hail already lay thick, and they were severely lashed by the hailstones which continued to fall. They had no protection except their shields and they were afraid that they would be struck by the lightning. Their horses were scattered far and wide: some were recovered two or three miles away, but many of them were never found at all. The two Kings were cut about by the hailstones as they lay on the ground. They did penance to God and begged Him to forgive them for having attacked their own kith and kin. No drop of rain fell on Chlothar, no clap of thunder was heard, no winds blew where he was. Childebert and Theudebert sent messengers to him to sue for peace and concord. This was granted and they all went home. None can doubt (Quod nullus ambigat) that this miracle of the blessed Martin was through the intercession of the Queen (per obtentum reginae).'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 124-125. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 185-186; lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, bishop of Tours (Gaul), ob. 397 : S00050 Clotild, queen and widow of Clovis, ob. AD 545 : S01186

Saint Name in Source

Martinus Chrodichildis

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

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Miraculous protection - of people and their property Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family


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.


According to Liber Historiae Francorum 25, this event happened in the Forest of Arelaunum. Scholars identify this place as the Forêt de Brotonne on the south side of the River Seine opposite Caudebec. The story is interesting for what it tells us of Gregory's attitude to Queen Clotild, about whom he would have heard much, since she spent her latter years as a religious at Tours. As a central protagonist in the conversion of Clovis, she was later to be venerated as a saint. For Gregory, however, she had not yet achieved this status: in this story she plays a crucial role in instituting the miracle, but Gregory attributes it to Martin, not her.


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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