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E02184: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (6.10), tells of how in 581 thieves robbed the church of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) in Tours (north-west Gaul). Through the power of the saint, they are later discovered and the stolen goods are restored. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 581/594.

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posted on 2016-12-27, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 6.10

His diebus basilica sancti Martini a furibus effracta fuit. Qui ponentes ad fenestram absidae cancellum, quod super tumulum cuiusdam defuncti erat, ascendentes per eum, effracta vitrea, sunt ingressi; auferentesque multum auri argentique vel palleorum olosericorum, abierunt, non metuentes super sanctum sepulchrum pedem ponere, ubi vix vel os applicare praesumimus. Sed virtus sancti voluit hanc temeritatem etiam cum iudicio manifestare terribili. Nam hi, perpetrato scelere, ad Burdegalensim civitatem venientes, orto scandalo, unus alterum interemit; sicque patefacto opere, furtum repertum est, ac de hospitale eorum argentum comminutum vel pallea sunt extracta. Quod cum regi Chilperico nuntiatum fuisset, iussit eos alligari vinculis et suo conspectui praesentari. Tunc ego metuens, ne ob illius causam homines morerentur, qui vivens in corpore pro perditorum vita saepius deprecatus est, epistolam regi precationis transmisi, ne, nostris non accusantibus, ad quos persecutio pertinebat, hi interficerentur. Quod ille benigne suscipiens, vitae restituit. Species vero, quae dissipatae fuerant, studiosissime componens, loco sancto reddi praecepit.

'About this time Saint Martin’s church (basilica) was broken into by thieves. They took a railing (cancellus) which was over the tomb of someone who had died, set it against a window in the apse, climbed up, broke the glass and made an entrance. They stole much gold and silver, with some silken cloths (pallea oloserica), and then made off, having gone so far as to walk on the Saint’s tomb, which we ourselves hesitate to touch even with our lips. In his miraculous power Saint Martin made a terrible example of these reckless men. After committing their crime they fled to the city of Bordeaux, where they quarrelled and one was killed by a comrade. In this way the outrage became public knowledge and the stolen goods were discovered: for the silken cloths were found in their lodging, and the silverware, too, although it had been broken up. King Chilperic heard of this and he ordered the malefactors to be bound and brought before him. I was afraid that these men might be put to death because of the very Saint who while he was on earth had so often begged for the life of condemned criminals: so I sent a letter to the King beseeching him not to have them executed, and saying that we, who must make the charge, proposed not to do so. He accepted what I said and spared their lives. The stolen goods had been scattered, but he had them collected together with great care and ordered them to be restored to the church (locus sanctus).'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 279-280. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 340-341, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, ascetic and 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

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Destruction/desecration of saint's shrine

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Monarchs and their family The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves)

Cult Activities - Relics

Touching and kissing relics

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Precious material objects Precious cloths


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.


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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