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E02134: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (5.6), recounts a miracle in 576 of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050), of first healing, then punishment: Leunast, archdeacon of Bourges, is partially cured of blindness at Martin's tomb in Tours, at the time of the saint's feast; but, after consulting a Jewish doctor, he becomes blind again. Gregory refers to his books of the Miracles of Martin. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 576/594.

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posted on 2016-12-16, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 5.6

Anno vero quo supra, id est quo, mortuo Sigybertho, Childeberthus, filius eius, regnare coepit, multae virtutes ad sepulchrum beati Martini apparuerunt, quas in illis libellis scripsi, quos de ipsis miraculis conponere temptavi. Et licet sermone rustico, tamen celare passus non sum, quae aut ipse vidi aut a fidelibus relata cognovi. Hic tantum, quid neglegentibus evenerit, qui post virtutem caelestem terrena medicamenta quaesierunt, exsolvam, quia, sicut per gratiam sanitatum, ita et in castigationem stultorum virtus eius ostenditur. Leonastis Biturigus archidiaconus, decedentibus cataractis, lumen caruit oculorum. Qui cum, per multos medicos ambulans, nihil omnino visionis recipere possit, accessit ad basilicam beati Martini; ubi per duos aut tres menses consistens et ieiunans assiduae, lumen ut reciperet flagitabat. Adveniente autem festivitate, clarificatis oculis cernere coepit; regressus quoque domum, vocato quodam Iudaeo, ventosas, quorum beneficio oculis lumen augeret, humeris superponit. Decedente quoque sanguine, rursus in redeviva caecitate redigitur. Quod cum factum fuisset, rursum ad sanctum templum regressus est. Ibique iterum longo spatio commoratus, lumen recipere non meruit.

'In this year, the year in which Sigibert died and his son Childebert began to reign, many miracles (virtutes) were performed at the tomb of Saint Martin. I have described these in the books which I have tried to write about his miracles. My Latin may be provincial, but I could hardly pass over in silence the things which I have seen, or which I have been told by the faithful. Here I will simply add what happened to certain sceptics, who, after receiving a god-sent miracle (virtus caelestis), sought earthly remedies (terrena medicamenta), for St Martin’s power is shown just as much by the punishment meted out to fools as it is by the grace accorded to those who have been cured. Leunast, archdeacon of Bourges, lost his sight through cataracts in both eyes. He sought the help of many doctors, but he did not recover his sight. Then he went to St Martin’s church, where he stayed for two or three months, fasting continually and praying that he might be able to see again. When St Martin’s feast-day came round, Leunast’s eyes cleared and he began to see. He went off home and consulted a Jew, who bled his shoulders with cupping-glasses, the effect of which was supposed to be that his sight would improve. As soon as the blood had been drawn off, Leunast became as blind as he had been before. He thereupon returned once more to the holy shrine. There he stayed for a long time, but he was never worthy to recover his sight.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 203. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 263, 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 - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Punishing miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy


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.


At the beginning of this extract, Gregory refers to books of his Miracles of Martin (E02800), which he compiled during his episcopacy at Tours (573-594). The specific story of Leunast, however, is not recorded there. Gregory was not entirely opposed to secular medicine, but, as in this story, was opposed to those who thought it might be able to better a miraculous healing. The story also presents Gregory's view of the right way to obtain a miraculous cure: beseeching the aid of the saint through heartfelt and prolonged devotion (in this case up to three months of prayer and fasting at Martin's shrine in Tours).


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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