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E02369: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (9.42), quotes the letter that *Radegund (former queen, and monastic founder, ob. 587, S00182) wrote in 560/561 in defence of her monastery in Poitiers (western Gaul), setting it under the protection of the Holy Cross, *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), *Hilary (bishop of Poitiers, ob. 367, S00183) and *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050); in the same letter Radegund asks to be buried in the church of Mary that she is building within the monastery. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 589/594.

online resource
posted on 2017-02-12, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 9.42

Radegund, in a long letter addressed to the bishops of her time, asks them to defend the rights and properties of her foundation. In the middle of the letter she invokes the support of some named saints:

Quod si, quod absit, contra Dei mandatum et auctoritatem regum aliquis de suprascriptis condicionibus vobis coram Domino et sanctis eius praecabiliter conmendatis agere aut de persona aut substantiam minuenda voluerit aut memoratae sorore meae Agnite abbatissae molestias aliquas inferre temptaverit, Dei et sanctae Crucis et beatae Mariae incurrat iudicium, et beatus confessores Helarium et Martinum, quibus post Deum sorores meas tradidi defendendas, ipsos habeat contradictores et persecutores.

'If any person whatsoever, in defiance of the will of God and of the king’s authority, thus contravening the conditions here set out and before our Lord and His Holy Saints commended in my prayers to your protection, shall do aught to harm any individual or to despoil any property, which God forbid, or shall attempt in any way to harass the aforesaid Abbess Agnes, my sister, may he incur the wrath of God and of the Holy Cross and of the Blessed Mary, and may he be assailed and pursued by Saint Hilary and Saint Martin, to whose especial care, after God, I have entrusted these nuns, who are my sisters.'

Towards the end of the letter, she asks to be buried in the church of Mary, Mother of Christ, that she has begun to build within the monastery:

Illud quoque vos sanctos pontifices et praecellentissimos domnos reges et universum populum christianum coniuro per fidem catholicam, in qua baptizati estis et ecclesias conservatis, ut in basilica, quam in sanctae Mariae dominicae genetrices honore coepimus aedificare, ubi etiam multae sorores nostrae conditae sunt in requie, sive perfecta sive inperfecta, cum me Deus de hac luce migrare praeceperit, corpuscolum meum ibi debeat sepeliri.

'I also beseech you, saintly bishops, and you, lords and kings omnipotent, and the whole Christian people, by that Catholic faith in which you are baptized, that, when God shall ordain the time has come for me to die, my poor body shall be buried here, in this church which I have begun to build in honour of the Blessed Mary, Mother of God, where so many of my nuns have been laid to rest, no matter whether that church is finished or not.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 472. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 537-8.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033 Hilary, bishop of Poitiers, ob. 368 : S00183 Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours (Gaul), ob. 397 : S00050 Radegund, queen of the Franks, ob. 587 : S00182

Saint Name in Source

Maria Helarius Martinus

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 - monastic

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


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 evidence is from the letter addressed by Radegund to the bishops of her own time. The letter was, of course, written at some point before Radegund's death in 587. The basilica built by Radegund was a mortuary chapel dedicated to Mary. It was built for the remains of the nuns of the Radegund's monastery and it was placed outside the walls. In AD 587, after the death of Radegund, who was buried there, the chapel was renamed the church of Radegund (Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1976, 229-230; Boissavit-Camus 1998, 87-88).


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: Boissavit-Camus, B., "Poitiers," in: N. Gauthier (ed.), Topographie chrétienne des cités de la Gaule des origines au milieu du VIIIe siècle, vol. 10: Province ecclésiastique de Bordeaux (Aquitania Secunda) (Paris, 1998), 65-92. 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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