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E02363: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (9.40), recounts how in 568-569 queen Radegund sent envoys to the East to obtain relics of the Holy Cross, and of unspecified *Apostles (S00084) and *martyrs (S00060), for her monastery in Poitiers (western Gaul). Bishop Maroveus of Poitiers refused to deposit the relics in the monastery, so Eufronius, bishop of Tours, performed the ceremony instead. 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) 9.40

Tempore vero Sygiberthi, postquam Maroveus episcopatum urbis adeptus est, acceptis epistulis Sygiberthi regis, pro fide ac devotione Radegundis beata in partibus orientis clericos distinat pro dominicae crucis ligno ac sanctorum apostolorum ceterorumque martyrum reliquiis. Qui euntes detulerunt haec pignora. Quibus delatis, petiit regina episcopum, ut cum honore debito grandique psallentio in monastyrium locarentur. Sed ille dispiciens suggestionem eius, ascensis aequitibus, villae se contulit. Tunc regina iteratis ad regem Sigibertum direxit, depraecans, ut iniunctione sua quicumque ex episcopis haec pignora cum illo quo decebat honorem votumque eius exposcebat in monastyrium collocaret. Ad hoc enim opus beatus Eufronius urbis Toronicae episcopus iniungitur. Qui cum clericis suis Pectavo accedens, cum grandi psallentium et caereorum micantium ac thymiamatis apparatu sancta pignora, absente loci episcopo, in monastirium detulit.

'In the days of Sigibert, after Maroveus had succeeded to the bishopric, the blessed Radegund, aided by letters from Sigibert, inspired by her faith and devotion, sent churchmen to eastern lands to search for pieces of wood from the True Cross, and for relics (reliquiae) of the holy Apostles and other martyrs. The churchmen set out and eventually they brought back some relics (pignora). When these arrived, the Queen asked Bishop Maroveus if he would deposit them in her nunnery with all due honour and a great ceremony of psalm-chanting. He refused her request; instead, he climbed on his horse and went off to visit one of his country estates. Then the Queen wrote a second time to Sigibert, begging him to order one of his bishops to deposit the relics in the nunnery with all the honour due to them, in compliance with her vow. Sigibert deputed Saint Eufronius, Bishop of Tours, to do what Radegund had asked. Eufronius came to Poitiers with his clergy. Maroveus stayed away, but Eufronius deposited the sacred relics (sancta pignora) in the nunnery with much chanting of psalms, with candles gleaming and with a great burning of incense.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 464. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 530; lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Anonymous martyrs : S00060 Apostles (unspecified) : S00084

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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Chant and religious singing

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Destruction/hostile attempts to prevent veneration of relics

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified Transfer, translation and deposition 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.


Radegund probably sent her envoys to the Byzantine court in Constantinople in 568, and she received relics of the Cross from the emperor Justin II (565-578) the next year (569). Gregory of Tours also mentions Radegund’s petition for relics in his Glory of the Martyrs 5 (E00370). Venantius Fortunatus, an intimate of Radegund, wrote a poem Ad Iustinum et Sophiam Augustos for this occasion. In installing the relics in Poitiers, Eufronius was acting outside his metropolitan jurisdiction (he was the bishop of Tours), although deputed by King Sigibert. Maroveus, in refusing to install them, was insulting both them and Radegund. His refusal can probably be explained by the threat the relics posed, as rivals to the principal relics under his control as bishop, the body of the patron of Poitiers, *Hilary (bishop of Poitiers, ob. 368, S00138). For *Radegund see S00182.


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). About the relics gathered by Radegund: Conway, M., "St Radegund's Reliquary at Poitiers," The Antiquaries Journal 3:1 (1923), 1-12. Hahn, C., "Collector and saint: Queen Radegund and devotion to the relic of the True Cross," Word & Image 22:3 (2006), 268-274. Moreira I., "Provisatrix optima: St. Radegund of Poitiers’ relic petitions to the East," Journal of Medieval History 19 (1993), 285–305.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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