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E02072: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (4.18), tells how Duke Austrapius, sought asylum in the church of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) in Tours, and how a judge who violated this asylum was struck dead; AD 555/560. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 575/594.

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posted on 2016-12-04, 00:00 authored by robert
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 4.18

Tunc et Austrapius dux Chramnum metuens, in basilica sancti Martini confugit. Cui tali in tribulatione posito non defuit divinum auxilium. Nam cum Chramnus ita eum constringi iussit, ut nullus illi alimenta praebere praesumerit, et ita arcius custodiretur, ut nec aquam quidem ei aurire liceret, quo facilius conpulsus inaedia ipse sponte sua de basilicam sancta periturus exiret, accedens quidam vasculum illi cum aqua simevivo detulit ad putandum. Quo accepto, velociter iudex loci advolavit ereptumque de manu eius terrae diffudit. Quod velox Dei ultio et beati antestetis virtus est subsecuta. Eam namque die iudex qua ista gesserat correptus a febre, nocte media expiravit, nec pervenit in crastino ad illam horam, qua in basilica sancti poculum de manu excusserat fugitivi. Post istud miraculum omnes ei opolentissime quae erant necessaria detulerunt.

'Duke Austrapius fearing Chramn, fled to the church of Saint Martin. God did not fail to help him in his distress. In order that he might more easily be forced by hunger to emerge of his own free will from the sacred building, even though he faced certain death, Chramn ordered him to be so closely watched that no one should dare to offer him food and so closely guarded that no one should give him water to drink. As he lay half-dead someone came with a cup of water and offered him a drink. He took it, but the local judge rushed forward, snatched it from his hand and poured it on the ground. The vengeance of God and the miraculous power of the saintly bishop were not slow in punishing this deed. That very day the judge who had acted in this way fell ill of a fever and by midnight he was dead, for he was not even permitted to survive until that same hour on the following day when he had dashed the cup from the fugitive’s hand in the saint's church. After this miracle everyone hastened to provide Austrapius with the necessities of life.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 150-151. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 214, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, bishop of Tours (Gaul), ob. 397 : S00050

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

Seeking asylum at church/shrine

Cult Activities - Miracles

Punishing miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Officials Ecclesiastics - bishops Other lay individuals/ people Aristocrats


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.


This event can be dated to the period when Chramn ruled Aquitania, that is between 555 and 560. The story is illustrative of how secular authorities were reluctant to openly break asylum; but attempted to negate it through strategies such as starving out the fugitive.


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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