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E02138: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (5.21), recounts a miracle, in 577/578, of water and wine at the tomb of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050), in Tours (north-west Gaul). Later in his work he tells of the fall from grace, in 585, of Winnoc, one of the witnesses to the miracle. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 577/594.

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posted on 2016-12-17, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 5.21

Under the year 577/578, Gregory records the arrival of Winnoc, a holy man from Brittany, whom he persuades to remain in Tours, and in whose presence a miracle occurs at the grave of Martin:

Tunc Winnocus Britto in summa abstinentia a Brittaniis venit Toronus, Hierusolimis accedere cupiens, nullum alium vestimentum nisi de pellibus ovium lana privatis habens; quem nos, quo facilius teneremus, quia nobis relegiosus valde videbatur, presbiterii gratia honoravimus. Inghitrudis autem relegiosa consuetudinem habebat, aquam de sepulchrum sancti Martini collegere. Qua aqua deficiente, rogat, vas cum vino ad beati tumulum deportari. Transacta autem nocte, eum exinde hoc presbitero praesenti adsumi mandavit; et ad se delatum, ait presbitero: 'Aufer hinc vino et unam tantum guttam de aqua benedicta, unde parum superest, effunde'. Quod cum fecisset, mirum dictu, vasculum, quod semeplenum erat, ad unius guttae discensum impletum est. Idem bis aut tertio vacuatum, per unam tantum guttam est impletum; quod non ambigetur, et in hoc beati Martini fuisse virtutem.

'At this time a Breton called Winnoch, who practised extreme abstinence, made his way from Brittany to Tours. His plan was to go on to Jerusalem. He wore no clothes except sheepskins from which the wool had been removed. He seemed to me to be a most pious man and in the hope of keeping him with me I ordained him as a priest. A certain religious called Ingitrude was in the habit of collecting the water from Saint Martin’s tomb. One day there was a shortage of water and Ingitrude asked that a jar of wine be carried to the tomb of the blessed man. As soon as the night had passed she ordered this wine to be brought to her at a moment when the priest [Winnoch] was standing near. The jar was placed before her and she said to the priest [Winnoch]: "Pour out some of the wine and replace it by a single drop of the holy water, for I still have a very small quantity left." Winnoch did as he was told. It is a remarkable fact that, as he added the single drop, the jar, which stood half empty, was filled to the brim. Ingitrude emptied the jar two or three times, and on each occasion it was replenished by the addition of a single drop of water. Let there be no doubt, this too was a miracle of the blessed Martin (quod non ambigetur, et in hoc beati Martini fuisse virtutem).'

Later in his Histories, at 8.34 describing the year 585, Gregory tells of the decline of Winnoc into alcoholism and madness:

Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 8.34

Et quia princeps tenebrarum mille habet artes nocendi, quid de reclausis ac Deo devotis nuper gestum fuerit, pandam. Vennocus Britto praesbiterii honore praeditus, cui in alio libro meminimus, tantae se abstinentiae dedicavit, ut indumentum de pellibus tantum uteretur, cybum de herbis agrestibus incoctis sumeret, vinum vero tantum vas ad os poneret, quod magis putaretur libare osculo quam haurire. Sed cum eidem devotorum largitas frequenter exhiberet vasa hoc plena licore, dedicit, quod peius est, extra modum haurire et in tantum dissolvi potione, ut plerumque ebrius cerneretur. Unde factum est, ut, invalescente temulentia, tempore procidente, a daemonio correptus, per inergiam vexaretur, in tantum ut, accepto cultro vel quodcumque genus teli sive lapidem aut fustem potuisset adrepere, post homines insano furore discurreret. Unde necessitas exigit, ut catenis vinctus costodiretur in cellula. In hac quoque damnatione per duorum annorum spatia debachans, spiritum exalavit.

'Since the Prince of Darkness has a thousand ways of doing us harm, I will relate what happened recently to certain hermits dedicated to God. In an earlier book I mentioned Winnoc the Breton, who was ordained a priest. The abstinence which he practised was so great that he wore only animal skins as clothing and as food ate only the uncooked herbs of the field. As far as wine was concerned, he would merely lift the cup to his mouth, appearing to touch it with his lip instead of drinking it. However, his followers were so open-handed in offering him goblets filled to the brim that he fell into the habit, which is a very bad one, of drinking immoderately, and he was often far gone in liquor that on more than one occasion he was obviously drunk. The result of this was that, as time passed, his intemperance became worse and worse. He was possessed by a devil, and he became so unbalanced that he would pick up a knife or whatever weapon he could lay his hands on, sometimes a stone, sometimes a stick, and chase after people in insane fury. There was nothing for it but to chain him up and lock him in his cell. Condemned to this fate, he continued to rave for a couple of years, and then he gave up the ghost.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 229 and 403. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 287-8 and 467-8, 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

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Women Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


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.


The precise context of this miracle is somewhat obscure: the water 'from St Martin's tomb' had presumably been used to wash it; but why on one occasion it was lacking, and why Ingitrude requested a jar of wine, is obscure. The role of Winnoc the Breton and of Ingitrude in this miracle-story is intriguing – Gregory is very careful to delineate precisely what each of them did. Although he then comes down in favour of a safe option – that this was a miracle of Martin – did Gregory perhaps wonder whether Winnoc or Ingitrude had played a major part in bringing it about? Later in the Histories both fell from grace: Winnoc, after his promising start, fell into drunkenness and insanity (Histories 8.34); Ingitrude founded a female monastery in the precincts of Martin's at Tours, but this led to a long-running quarrel with her daughter (Histories 9.33 and 10.12).


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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