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E02263: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (7.31), recounts how the usurper Gundovald in 584 sought relics of *Sergius/Sergios (soldier martyr of Rusafa, S00023), to help him in battle; he learns that a Syrian merchant in Bordeaux (south-west Gaul) has a finger of Sergius, which has protected his house from fire; a supporter of Gundovald seeks out the relic, breaks it in three, and takes one part. The disapproval of the saint is made evident by Gundovald's subsequent defeat and death. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 584/594.

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posted on 2017-01-19, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 7.31

Erat tunc temporis Gundovaldus in urbe Burdegalensi a Berthramno episcopo valde dilectus. Inquirens autem, quae ei causae solatium praebere possint, narravit quidam, quod aliquis in partibus Orientis rex, ablato sancti Sergi martyris pollice, in dextro brachio corporis sui seruisset. Cumque ei necessitas ad depellendum inimicos obvenisset, in hoc confisus auxilio, ubi dextri lacerti erexisset ulnam, protinus multitudo hostium, quasi martyris obpraessi virtute, labibatur in fugam. Haec audiens Gundovaldus, inquirere diligentius coepit, quisnam esset in eo loco, qui reliquias sancti Sergii martyris meruisset accipere. Interea proditur ab episcopo Berthramno Eufron neguciator per inimicitiam, quia invitum aliquando eum totunderat, inhians facultatem eius. Quod ille dispiciens, ad aliam urbem transiens, caesariae crescente, regreditur. Ait ergo episcopus: 'Est hic quidam Syrus Eufron nomine, qui de domo sua ecclesiam faciens, huius sancti reliquias collocavit et plurima ex his signa, virtute martyris opitulante, conspexit. Nam cum tempore quodam Burdegalensis civitas maximo flagraretur incendio, haec domus circumdata flammis nullatenus est adusta.'

Ista eo dicente, statim Mummolus cursu rapido cum episcopo Berthramno ad domum Syri accedit, vallatumque hominem, pignera sibi sancta praecepit ostendi. Negat ille. Tamen cogitans, quod pro malitia aliqua ei haec pararetur insidia, ait: 'Noli fategare senem nec sancto inferre iniuriam; sed, acceptis a me centum aureis, abscide'. Illo quoque insistenti, ut sanctas viderit reliquias, ducentus aureos obtulit; et nec sic obtenuit eum recedere, nisi ipsa pignera viderentur. Tunc Mummolus elevari ad parietem scalam iubet - erant enim in sublime parietes contra altarium in capsola reconditae - diaconum suum scandere praecepit. Qui per gradus scandens scalae, adpraehendens capsam, ita tremore concussus est, ut nec vivens putaretur ad terram reverti.

Adtamen accepta, ut diximus, capsula, quae de parieti pendebat, detulit. Quam perscrutatam, Mummolus os de sancti digito repperit, quod cultro ferire non metuit. Posito enim desuper cultro, et sic de alio percutiebat. Cumque post multos ictos vix frangi potuissit, divisum in tribus partibus ossiculum diversas in partes dilabitur. Credo, non erat acceptum martyri, ut haec ille contigerit. Tunc flente vehimentius Eufronio, prosternuntur omnes in orationem, depraecantes, ut Deus dignaretur ostendere, quae ab oculis fuerant humanis ablata. Post orationem autem repertae sunt particulae, ex quibus una Mummolus adsumpta abscessit, sed non, ut credo, cum gratia martyris, sicut in sequenti declaratum est.

'At this time Gundovald was in the city of Bordeaux, where he had the support of Bishop Bertram. He was looking out for anyone who could further his cause. Somebody told him that a certain king in Eastern parts had obtained possession of the thumb of Saint Sergius the martyr, and that he had attached this to his own right arm. Whenever he needed help to drive back his enemies, he would put his trust in this support; for when he raised his right arm the enemy troops would immediately turn in flight, as if they had been vanquished by the martyr’s miraculous power. As soon as Gundovald heard of this, he began to inquire very urgently whether there was anybody in the neighbourhood who had managed to acquire any relics of this martyr Saint Sergius. The name of a merchant called Eufronius was put forward by Bishop Bertram. Bertram hated Eufronius, because he had once had him tonsured against his will, hoping to obtain control of his possessions, but Eufronius had treated the whole matter with ridicule, going off to live in another town until his hair grew, and then returning. "There is a certain Syrian living in this city," said Bertram. "His name is Eufronius and he has turned his house into a shrine (qui de domo sua ecclesiam faciens). In this house he has placed relics (reliquiae) of the Saint whom you have just mentioned: through their influence, and with the help of the supernatural power of the martyr, he has witnessed many miracles. There was a time, for instance, when the city of Bordeaux was being burnt in a great fire, but Eufronius’ house was not touched, although it was enveloped in flames."

When Bertram said this, Mummolus immediately set off at full speed for the Syrian’s house, taking the Bishop with him. They stood on either side of the man, and Mummolus demanded that the holy relics be shown to him. Eufronius refused to do so. Thinking that some trap was perhaps being laid for him, in view of the malice which the Bishop bore him, he said: "I am an old man. Do stop harassing me and insulting the Saint. Here are a hundred gold pieces. Take them and go." Mummolus repeated that he wanted to see the holy relics. Eufronius then offered him two hundred gold pieces, but he could not persuade him to leave until the relics (pignera) had been shown to him. They were hidden in a casket (in capsola) high up in the wall near the altar. Mummolus ordered a ladder to be set up against the wall, and then he told one of Bishop Bertram’s deacons to climb up. The man clambered up the steps of the ladder and took hold of the casket, but he trembled so violently that it seemed impossible that he could reach the ground again alive.

Anyway, as I have said, he took the casket in his hand, from where it was hanging against the wall, and brought it down. Mummolus examined it and found in it one of the bones of the Saint’s finger. He had the nerve to give it a knock with his knife. He hit it with this knife, first on one side and then on the other. After giving it a number of such blows, he managed with great difficulty to break it. The little bone broke into three pieces and the fragments dropped out of sight in different directions. What had happened can hardly have pleased the martyr, or so I imagine. Eufronius wept bitterly and all three knelt in prayer, beseeching God of His grace to deign to reveal to them the fragments which had disappeared from human sight. When they had finished their prayers, they discovered the pieces of bone. Mummolus took one of them and went off with it, but not, I believe, with the approval of the martyr, as was shown in what followed.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 350-351. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 413-414.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Sergios, martyr in Syria, ob. 303-311 : S00023

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 - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies Miracle after death Unspecified miracle Miraculous protection - of people and their property Specialised miracle-working

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Ecclesiastics - bishops Merchants and artisans

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - arm/hand/finger Privately owned relics Reliquary – privately owned Division of relics Theft/appropriation 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.


This remarkable story is of interest for several reasons: for the private possession of relics by a merchant, and for his conversion of part of his house into a shrine, complete with altar and reliquary: for the high status of Sergios, soldier and martyr of Rusafa in Syria, whose relic has reached Gaul in the hands of a Syrian merchant, and whose help is apparently being sought specifically because of his prowess in war; and for the maladroit efforts to divide this small corporeal relic, efforts which the saint clearly disapproved of.


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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