University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E02064: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (3.29), tells how, in c. 542, the citizens of Saragossa (western Spain) processed around the walls of the city with the tunic of *Vincent (deacon and martyr of Saragossa and Valencia, S00290), thereby successfully seeking protection during a Frankish siege. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 575/594.

online resource
posted on 2016-12-02, 00:00 authored by mszada
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 3.29

Post haec Childeberthus rex in Hispaniam abiit. Qua ingressus cum Chlothachario, Caesaragustanam civitatem cum exercitu vallant atque obsedent. At ille in tanta humilitate ad Deum conversi sunt, ut induti ciliciis, abstinentis a cibis et poculis, cum tonica beati Vincenti martiris muros civitatis psallendo circuirent; mulieres quoque amictae nigris palleis, dissoluta caesariae, superposito cinere, ut eas putares virorum funeribus deservire, plangendo sequebantur. Et ita totam spem locus ille ad Domini misericordiam rettulit, ut diceretur ibidem Ninivitarum ieiunium caelebrari, nec aestimaretur aliud posse fieri, nisi eorum praecibus divina misericordia flectiretur. Hii autem qui obsedebant, nescientes quid obsessi agerent, cum viderent sic murum circuire, putabant, eos aliquid agere malefitii. Tunc adpraehensum unum de civitate rusticum, ipse interrogant, quid hoc esset quod agerent. Qui ait: 'Tonicam beati Vincenti deportant et cum ipsa, ut eis Dominus misereatur, exorant'. Quod illi timentes, se ab ea civitate removerunt.

'Next King Childebert set off for Spain. He and Chlothar arrived there together. They attacked and laid siege to the city of Saragossa. The inhabitants turned in great humility to God: they dressed themselves in hair-shirts, abstained from eating and drinking, and marched round the city walls singing psalms and carrying the tunic of the blessed Vincent the martyr. Their women-folk followed them, weeping and wailing, dressed in black garments, with their hair blowing free and with ashes on their heads, so that you might have thought that they were burying their dead husbands. The city pinned its hope on the mercy of God. It could have been said to fast as Nineveh fasted, and it was quite unimaginable that God in His compassion would not be swayed by the prayers of these people. The besiegers did not know what the besieged were doing: as they watched them march round the walls they imagined that it was some kind of black magic. They seized hold of a peasant who lived in Saragossa and asked him what they were doing. "They are carrying the tunic of Saint Vincent," he told them, "and with it they are imploring God to take pity on them." This scared the troops and they withdrew from the city.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 125-126. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 186-187; lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Vincent, deacon and martyr of Saragossa and Valencia, ob. c. 305 : S00290

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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Procession

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies Miracle after death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - saint’s possession and clothes


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.


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).

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager