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E02359: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (9.27), records a young girl who in 589 sought asylum in the church of *Marcellus (martyr of Chalon-sur-Saône, S00323) at Chalon-sur-Saône (eastern Gaul) after killing Duke Amalo who had tried to rape her. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 589/594.

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posted on 2017-02-10, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 9.27

One night, Duke Amalo, seized with desire for a young girl, sends his servants to put her in his bed. She is carried to Amalo’s house by force. He punches her and takes her in his arms, and then falls asleep. The girl takes his sword and thrusts it into him. He screams and his servants come and try to kill the girl, but Amalo shouts:

'Ne faciatis, quaeso. Ego enim peccavi, qui vim castitati inferre conatus sum. Nam haec, qui pudicitiam studuit conservare, omnino non pereat'. Haec dicens, spiritum exalavit. Cumque super eum familia coniuncta lamentaret, adiutorio Dei eruta puella domum egreditur et per noctem Cavillonensim urbem adiit, quae est sita ab eo loco quasi milia XXXV, ibique basilica sancti Marcelli ingressa, regis prostrata pedibus, cuncta quae pertulerat pandit. Tunc rex misericordissimus non solum ei vitam donavit, verum etiam praeceptionem tribui iussit, ut, in verbo suo posita, a nullo umquam parentum defuncti illius in aliquo molestiam pateretur. Verumtamen hoc, Deo praestante, cognovimus, quod puellae castitas non est a dereptore saevo ullatinus violata.

'Stop, stop, I tell you! It is I who have sinned, for I tried to rape this girl! She only did this to preserve her virginity. You must not hurt her.’ As he said this he died. While all Amalo’s family stood there lamenting, the girl escaped with God’s help and ran home. She then made her way to the city of Chalon-sur-Saône, which is about thirty-five miles from the place where this happened. She went into the church of Saint Marcellus, threw herself at the King’s feet and told him all that had occurred. He was filled with compassion. Not only did he grant her her life, but he ordered a royal edict to be drawn up to the effect that she was under his protection and must not be molested by any of the dead man’s relations. I later learned that with God to guard her she did not lose her virginity at the hands of her brutal ravisher.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 4445-446. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 513-514.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Marcellus, martyr at Chalon-sur-Saone in Gaul, ob.? : S00323

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 - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives



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 church of Marcellus was located about two kilometres from Chalon-sur-Saône. It is mentioned four times in Gregory's Histories: at 5.27 (see E02178), 9.27 (discussed here), 9.3 (see E02329), 10.10 (see E02372). In each case it is a place where people sought sanctuary. In 583/584 king Guntram rebuilt the church and constructed there a monastery, and in 592 he was buried there. After the times of Gregory, it served as the funerary church for the bishops (Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1976, 264-265).


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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