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E02171: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (5.37), records the death in 580 of *Martin, (bishop of Braga, S01176) in Galicia (north-west Spain), and the verses he wrote over the portal of a church of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050). Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 580/594.

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posted on 2016-12-21, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 5.37

Hoc tempore et beatus Martinus Galliciensis episcopus obiit, magnum populo illi faciens planctum. Nam hic Pannoniae ortus fuit, et exinde ad visitanda loca sancta in Oriente properans, in tantum se litteris inbuit, ut nulli secundus suis temporibus haberetur. Exinde Gallitiam venit, ubi, cum beati Martini reliquiae portarentur, episcopus ordinatur. In quo sacerdotio impletis plus minus triginta annis, plenus virtutibus migravit ad Dominum. Versiculos, qui super ostium sunt a parte meridiana in basilica sancti Martini, ipse composuit.

'The blessed Martin, bishop of Galicia, died at this time and was greatly lamented by his people. He was a native of Pannonia, but he left that region to travel in the East and to visit the holy places. He read so widely that he was held second to none among his contemporaries. Later he journeyed to Galicia, where he was ordained bishop, when relics of the blessed Martin [of Tours] were being brought there. He ruled his bishopric for about thirty years and died full of good works. It was he who composed the verses over the southern portal of the church of Saint Martin (basilica sancti Martini).'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 243. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 301, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours (Gaul), ob. 397 : S00050 Martin, bishop of Braga, ob. 580 AD : S01176

Saint Name in Source

Martinus Martinus

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

Renovation and embellishment of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified Transfer, translation and deposition of relics


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.


Martin of Braga later attracted cult as an acknowledged saint, but this is not explicit in Gregory's account of his death (for instance, no miracles are mentioned). Gregory's story of how he arrived in the Suevic kingdom of Galicia, at the same time as relics of Martin of Tours (which were instrumental in leading to the conversion of the Suevic king, Chararic, from Arianism to Catholicism) is told in much more detail by Gregory in his Miracles of Martin 1.11 (E02847), which he had almost certainly written before this chapter in the Histories. The verses described by Gregory of Tours as written for the south door of a church of Martin of Tours are almost certainly the poem that survives amongst Martin of Braga's works entitled In basilica (for which, see E02253).


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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