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E02189: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (6.37), recounts how *Lupentius (S01183), abbot of the church of *Privatus (bishop and martyr of Javols, S01183) in Javols (southern Gaul), is murdered in 584 by the river Aisne (north-east Gaul); his head and body are recovered miraculously from the river, and buried there; the sick are cured at his grave. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 584/594.

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posted on 2016-12-29, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 6.37

Lupentius vero abba basilicae sancti Privati martyris urbis Gabalitanae, a Brunichilde regina arcessitus, advenit. Incusatus enim, ut ferunt, fuerat ab Innocentio supradictae urbis comite, quod profanum aliquid effatus de regina fuisset. Sed discussis causis, cum nihil de crimine maiestatis conscius esset inventus, discedere iussus est. Verum ubi via carpere coepit, iterum ab antedicto comite captus et ad Ponticonem villam deductus, multis suppliciis est adfectus; dimissusque iterum, ut rediret, cum super Axonam fluvium tentorium tetendisset, iterum inruit super eum inimicus eius. Quem vi oppressum, amputatum caput in culleum oneratum lapidibus posuit et flumini dedit; reliquum vero corpus vinctum cum saxo inmersit gurgiti. Post dies vero paucos apparuit quibusdam pastoribus, et sic extractum a flumine sepulturae mandatum est. Sed dum necessitates in funere pararentur et ignoraretur, quis esset e populo, praesertim cum caput truncati non inveniretur, subito adveniens aquila levavit culleum a fundere fluminis et ripae deposuit. Admirantesque qui aderant, adpraehensum culleum, dum sollicite, quid contineret, inquirunt, caput truncati repperiunt, et sic cum reliquis artubus est sepultum. Nam ferunt nunc et lumen ibi divinitus apparere; et si infirmus ad hoc tumulum fideliter deprecatus fuerit, accepta sospitate recedit.

'Lupentius, abbot of the church (basilica) of the martyr Saint Privatus in Javols, was summoned by Queen Brunhild and appeared before her. They say that he had been accused by Innocentius, count of that city, of making libellous remarks about the Queen. His case was discussed, but he was found not guilty of the charge of lèse-majesté (crimen maiestatis) and ordered to return home. On the journey he was seized by the count, dragged off to the manor of Ponthion and grievously maltreated. Once more they let him go. As he continued on his way he pitched his tent on the bank of the River Aisne, and there his enemy attacked him yet again. Rude hands were laid on him. Innocentius cut off his head, put it in a sack weighted with stones and threw it into the river. He tied the body to a rock and threw that, too, into the water. A few days passed, and then the body was discovered by some shepherds, who pulled it out of the river and prepared to bury it. While they were making plans for the burial, not knowing who it was from Adam, the more so as the severed head had not been found, there suddenly appeared an eagle, which fished the sack out from the bottom of the river and placed it on the bank. The shepherds stood stock still in amazement. They picked up the sack, wondering what could possibly be in it, and then found inside the head belonging to the body. The two were buried together. They say that even now a celestial light still shines above the burial-place; and that if a sick man prays in faith over the tomb (tumulus), he goes on his way whole.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 308-309. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 370.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Lupentius, abbot of the monastery in Javols (south Gaul), ob. AD 584 : S01183 Privatus, bishop and martyr at Javols (south Gaul), ob. 3rd/4th/5th century : S01184

Saint Name in Source

Lupentius Privatus

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 - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Ceremonies at burial of a saint

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Miracle with animals and plants

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Bodily relic - head


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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