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E02265: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (7.35), tells of how king Guntram's troops, pursuing Gundovald the Pretender to Comminges (south-west Gaul) in 585, burn the locked doors of the church of *Vincentius (martyr of Agen, S00432) near Agen (south-west Gaul), and ransack the building, where the residents had placed their good for the saint's protection. Vincentius punishes the offending soldiers. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 585/594.

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posted on 2017-01-20, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 7.35

Quibus properantibus, venerunt ad basilicam sancti Vincenti, quae est infra terminum Agenninsis urbis, ubi ipse martyr pro Christi nomine agonem dicitur consummasse, inveneruntque eam refertam a diversis thesauris incolarum. Erat enim spes incolis non esse a christianis tanti martyris basilicam violandam. Cuius ostia summo studio obserata erant. Nec mora, adpropinquans exercitus cum reserare templi regias non valeret, ignem accendit; consumptisque osteis, omnem substantiam cunctamque suppellectilem, quae in ea invenire potuerunt, cum sacris ministeriis abstulerunt. Sed multos ibi ultio divina conteruit. Nam plerisque manus divinitus urebantur, emittentis fumum magnum, sicut ex incendio surgi solet. Nonnulli arrepti a daemone, per inergiam debachantes martyrem declamabant. Plurimi vero semoti a seditione propriis se iaculis sauciabant. Relicum vero vulgus inante non sine grande metu progressum est.

'These [King Guntram’s commanders] advanced at great speed and came to the great church of Saint Vincent, inside the boundaries of the town of Agen, on the spot where the martyr is said to have ended his fight in the name of Christ. They found the church filled with all sorts of treasures belonging to the local inhabitants. Their hope was that the shrine of so great a martyr would never be violated by men calling themselves Christians. The doors were heavily padlocked. As soon as they realized that they could not unlock the church doors, the advancing troops promptly set light to them. Once the doors were burnt down, the soldiers looted all the property and all the equipment which they found there, and stole the church plate as well. The vengeance which God exacted gave them a severe fright. Many of their hands caught fire supernaturally and gave forth a great smoke, like the pall which rises from a conflagration. Some were possessed by a demon and rushed about screaming the martyr’s name. Others fought with each other and wounded themselves with their own javelins. A vast horde of troops continued to advance, but with fear in their hearts.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 356-357. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 418-419.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Vincent, martyr in Agen (Gaul), ob.? : S00432

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 - Miracles

Punishing miracle Miraculous protection - of church and church property Miracle after death Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people Aristocrats Officials Soldiers


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 story is also recorded in Gregory of Tours' Glory of the Martyrs 104 (see E$00658). The church of Vincent was located in Le-Mas-d'Agenais. According to Carmen 1.8 of Venantius Fortunatus (E05586), it was built by Leontius, bishop of Bordeaux, who died c. 520, and was dedicated by Leontius II, who died c. 570 (Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1976, 166-167).


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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