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E02135: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (5.8), records the death and burial in 576 of *Germanus (bishop of Paris, S01166); during his funeral procession prisoners are miraculously freed, confirming Germanus' miracles in life. Gregory refers to the Life of Germanus written by Venantius Fortunatus. 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) 5.8

Eo anno et beatus Germanus Parisiorum episcopus transiit. In cuius exsequiis multis virtutibus, quas in corpore gesserat, hoc miraculum confirmationem fecit. Nam carcerarius adclamantibus, corpus in platea adgravatum est, solutisque eisdem, rursum sine labore levatur. Ipsi quoque, qui soluti fuerant, in obsequium funeris usque basilicam, in qua sepultus est, liberi pervenerunt. Ad sepulchrum autem eius multas virtutes, Domino tribuente, credentes experiuntur, ita ut quisque iusta petierit velociter exoptata reportet. Quis tamen strenuus virtutes illius, quas in corpore fecit, sollicite vult inquirere, librum vitae illius, qui a Fortunato presbitero conpositus est, legens, cuncta repperiet.

'In the same year died the blessed Germanus, bishop of Paris. The following miracle, which occurred at his funeral, confirmed the many others which he performed while still alive. Certain prisoners called upon him as his body was being carried by in the street: the corpse became heavy but, when the prisoners were released, it was lifted up again with ease. In their newly-found liberty the freed men followed the funeral procession into the church where Germanus was buried. By the grace of God true believers experience many miracles at his tomb, for any man whose petition is just receives without delay what he has sought. Anyone who really wishes to find out about the miracles which Saint Germanus performed in the flesh will read all he wants to know in the Book of his Life (liber vitae illius) written by the priest Fortunatus.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 204. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 264, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Germanus, bishop of Paris, ob. 576 : S01166

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 - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Ceremonies at burial of a saint

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Miracle during lifetime Freeing prisoners, exiles, captives, slaves

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves)

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


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.


For the Life of Saint Germanus (Vita Sancti Germani ) by Venantius Fortunatus, see E06714. As elsewhere in his works, Gregory here put his greatest trust in posthumous miracles as proof of sanctity, rather than in miracles performed in life.


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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