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E02280: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (8.14), recounts how relics he was carrying, of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) and other unnamed saints, prevented the boat he was in from sinking; in Coblenz (north-east Gaul), in 585. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 585/594.

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posted on 2017-01-27, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 8.14

Nobis itaque in antedicto castro cum regem commorantibus, dum ad convivium principis usque obscura nocte reteneremur, epulo expleto, surreximus, venientesque ad fluvium, offendimus navem in litus, quae nobis fuerat praeparata. Ascendentibusque nobis, inruit turba hominum diversorum, impletaque est navis tam hominibus quam aquis. Sed virtus Domini adfuit non sine grande miraculo, ut, cum usque labium impleta fuisset, mergi non possit. Habebamus enim nobiscum beati Martini reliquias cum aliorum sanctorum, quorum virtutem nos credimus fuisse salvatos. Ad vero nave ad litus unde egressi fuimus redeunte, evacuata vel ab hominibus vel a lymphis, repulsis extraneis, sine inpedimento transivimus. In crastino autem vale regi dicentes, abscessimus.

'I myself stayed for some time with King Childebert in Coblenz. One night I was obliged to remain at his table until it was quite dark. When the meal was over, I rose from my seat and went down to the river. I found waiting on the bank a boat which had been made ready for me. I went on board, but a motley crowd of individuals followed me. As the boat filled with men it also filled with water. God in His omnipotence performed a miracle, for, though the boat had water up to its gunwale, it could not sink. With me I had some relics of Saint Martin, and of other Saints, too. It was to their miraculous power that I owed my preservation. The boat was steered back to the bank which we had just left. The men got out and the boat was emptied of water. None of the interlopers was allowed in again and I crossed the river without incident. The next morning I said good-bye to the King and set out on my return journey.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 380. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 444.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours (Gaul), ob. 397 : S00050 Saints, unnamed : S00518

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 - Miracles

Miracle after death Miraculous protection - of people and their property Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified Privately owned 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.


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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