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E02257: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (7.21), tells of how, in 584, Eberulf, treasurer of king Chilperic, sought sanctuary in the church of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) in Tours. Men of Orléans and Blois, guarding him, steal some of the saint's animals, but Martin punishes them and recovers the beats. Eventually Eberulf is tricked and killed by a certain Claudius, who is himself killed. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 584/594.

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posted on 2017-01-17, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 7.21

Quod cum Eberulfus conperissit, basilicam sancti Martini, cuius res saepe pervaserat, expetivit. Tunc data occansione, ut custodiretur, Aurilianensis adque Blesensis vicissim ad has excubias veniebant, impletisque quindecim diebus, cum praeda multa revertebantur, adducentis iumenta, pecora vel quodcumque derepere potuissent. Ille vero, qui beati Martini iumenta abduxerant, commota altercatione, se invicem lanceis transfixerunt. Duo, qui mulas diripiebant, ad domum vicini cuiusdam accedentes, potum rogare coeperunt. Cumque ille se habere negarit, elevatis lanceis ut eum transfoderent, hic extracto gladio utrumque perfodit, cecideruntque ambo et mortui sunt; iumenta tamen sancti Martini reddita sunt. Tantaque ibi tunc mala per hos Aurilianensis gesta sunt, ut nequeant explicari.

'As soon as Eberulf heard of this, he sought sanctuary in the church of Saint Martin, whose property he had often made off with. It was thought necessary to set up a guard over him, and the men of Orléans and Blois took it in turns to keep watch. They duly arrived, but, when they had stayed fifteen days, they set off home again, taking with them a vast amount of loot, carrying off pack-animals, cattle and whatever they could lay their hands on. These men who had stolen Saint Martin’s animals then quarrelled among themselves and started thrusting each other through with their spears. Two of them, who were driving off the mules, came to the house of one of the local inhabitants and began to ask for a drink. The man said that he had none, so they levelled their spears and were about to transfix him. Thereupon he drew his sword and pierced them both. They fell to the ground and died on the spot. Saint Martin’s beasts arrived home safe. So many crimes were committed on this occasion by the men of Orleans that it is impossible to tell them all.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 340. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 402.

Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 7.22

Gregory attributes Eberulf's downfall to his lack of respect for the saint, and goes on to describe the bad behaviour of Eberulf and his servants:

Sed credo, infilici ea res maximum fuit inpedimentum, quod nullam reverentiam sancto praestabat antestiti. Nam saepe cedes infra ipsum atrium, quod ad pedes beati erat, exegit, exercens assiduae aebrietatis ac vanitatis. ... Cum autem presbiter, qui clavis ostei retenebat, clausis a reliquis, recessissit, per illum salutaturii osteum introeuntes puellae cum reliquis pueris eius, suspiciebant picturas parietum rimabantque ornamenta beati sepulchri; quod valde facinorosum relegiosis erat. Quod cum presbyter cognovissit, defixis clavis super ostium, intrinsecus serras aptavit. Haec ille cum post caenam vinu maditus advertissit et nos in basilicam in initium noctis orationis gratia psallerimus, furibundus ingreditur meque convitiis ac maledictionibus urguere coepit, illud inter iurgia exprobrans, quod ego eum vellim a sancti antestitis fimbriis separare.

'In my opinion the cause of his [Eberulf's] unhappy downfall was that he had no reverence for the saintly Bishop [Martin]. He often committed manslaughter in the very vestibule which was at the saint's feet, and he behaved there in a drunken and stupid way. ... When the priest who had charge of the door-keys had locked everything up and gone off, Eberulf’s young women and his men-servants used to come in through the sacristy entrance and stand gaping at the frescoes on the walls or pry about among the decorations on the Saint’s tomb, all of which was a desecration of religious feeling. When the priest realised what was happening, he nailed up the top of the door and had locks fitted to it. After supper, when he was sodden with wine, Eberulf noticed what had been done. In a mad frenzy he came up to me inside the church, where I was chanting psalms at the service held at nightfall, and began loading me with curses and insults, reproaching me, among other things, with having cut off his access to the fringes which hang round the Saint’s tomb.'

Gregory goes on tell Eberulf of how he had a dream in which King Guntram repeatedly tried to drag Eberulf from the altar. Eberulf confesses that if the king had him forcibly removed he intended to kill Gregory and his clerics in revenge.

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 341-343. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 403-4, lightly adapted.

Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 7.29

Eberulf spent a long time in the church of Martin in Tours. King Guntram sent a certain Claudius to kill Eberulf or load him with chains, but with orders not to damage Martin's church. He went to Eberulf and swore, even by the miraculous power of Martin, that he would represent Eberulf well to the king. The next day, after a meal in the church-house, Claudius walked with Eberulf to the forecourt and killed him with a sword. Martin did not save Eberulf, because of his impiety. Eberulf's men, aided by the beggars and possessed who lived around the church and who were incensed at the crime, attacked Claudius and his supporters, and killed them:

Nonnulli etiam matricolariorum et reliquorum pauperum pro scelere commisso tectum cellolae conantur evertere. Sed et inergumini ac diversi egeni cum petris et fustibus ad ulciscendam basilicae violentiam proficiscuntur, indigne ferentes, quur talia, quae numquam facta fuerant, essent ibidem perpetrata.

'Some of the beggars who regularly received alms at the church and a number of other poor folk were so incensed at the crime that they tried to pull the roof off the cell. Then certain men who were possessed of devils and a number of other wretched creatures seized sticks and stones and rushed to avenge the violence done to their church, bearing it ill that such atrocities as had never been witnessed before should now have been perpetrated there.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 346-349. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 412. Summary: Katarzyna Wojtalik.


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 - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Seeking asylum at church/shrine

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Destruction/desecration of saint's shrine

Cult Activities - Miracles

Punishing miracle Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Aristocrats Officials Other lay individuals/ people The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves)

Cult Activities - Cult Related 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.


The actions of Eberulf in Martin's church cause Gregory to refer in unusual detail to the physical buildings, decorations and furnishings around the saint's tomb. Eberulf is so concerned about being shut off from the fringes (fimbriae) of the hangings around Martin's tomb (7.22) because it was by clutching them that he demonstrated that he was claiming asylum.


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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