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E02104: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (4.16), recounts how in 555/560 an official was struck deaf and dumb after claiming that the churches of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) and *Martialis (first bishop of Limoges, S01168), in Tours and Limoges (both in western Gaul), paid nothing to the fisc; he later failed to find a cure at Martin's shrine in Tours. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 575/594.

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posted on 2016-12-11, 00:00 authored by robert
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 4.16

The context is a chapter about the evil doings of Chramn, when he was administering much of western Gaul in c. 555-560. Here Gregory writes about one of Chramn's officials, one Leo from Poitiers.

Hic fertur quadam vice dixisse, quod Martinus et Marcialis confessoris Domini nihil fisci viribus utile reliquissent. Sed statim percussus a virtute confessorum, surdus et mutus effectus, amens est mortuos. Venit enim miser ad basilicam sancti Martini Toronus celebravitque vigilias, dedit munera, sed non eum respexit virtus consueta. Cum ipsa enim qua venerat infirmitate regressus est.

'It was Leo who was said to have alleged that Saint Martin and Saint Martialis left nothing of any value to the royal
treasury. He was immediately struck deaf and dumb by the miraculous power of the two confessors and he died a lunatic. In his misery he came to the church of Saint Martin in Tours and kept vigils there and presented gifts, but the usual miraculous power did him no good, for he went away just as ill as he was when he came.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 148. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 211, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, bishop of Tours (Gaul), ob. 397 : S00050 Martialis, bishop of Limoges, ob. late 3rd century : S01168

Saint Name in Source

Martinus Marcialis

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


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Punishing miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people


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.


Gregory, who was born in c. 538 in Clermont, will have had direct experience of the misadministration of Chramn and his officials. This is a classic story of saints protecting their churches against rapacious officials. Gregory does not specify whether Leo never received a cure from Martin because his crime was too great, or his contrition insufficient.


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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