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E02389: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (10.31), writes that Bricius, the fourth bishop of Tours, built a small church over the tomb of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) in Tours, and was himself buried there when he died in around 443. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 591/594.

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posted on 2017-02-18, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 10.31

Hic aedificavit basilicam parvulam super corpus beati Martini, in qua et ipse sepultus est.

'He [Bricius, the fourth bishop of Tours] had a small church constructed over Saint Martin’s body and there he himself was buried.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 528. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 595, modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

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

Construction of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


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 Martin: The first small church (basilica parvula) over the tomb of Martin in Tours was built by Bricius, the fourth bishop of Tours, about AD 443/444 (Histories 10.31, E02389). This was the beginning of Martin’s cult in Tours, fifty years after his death. Bricius was also the first bishop who was buried in the church over Martin’s tomb (Histories 10.31), and the building became the funeral church for the bishops of Tours. About AD 470 Perpetuus, the sixth bishop of Tours, removed the old chapel (cellula) and built a great church in its place. The vault (camera) from the old chapel was removed to a new church of the Apostles Peter and Paul, also built by Perpetuus (Histories 2.14, E02023; Histories 10.31, E02391). Miracles that occurred at the tomb of Martin were recorded by Sulpicius Severus, and later versified by Paulinus of Périgueux (Miracles of Martin 1.2, E02802), at the request of Perpetuus. Paulinus of Périgueux and Sidonius Apollinaris were also asked for poems to write on the walls of the church. Perpetuus instituted a new feast to celebrate three separate events: the dedication of the church, the translation of Martin’s body, and his ordination as a bishop. This was observed on 4 July (Histories 2.14, E02023; Miracles of Martin 1.6, E02805), while 11 November (the day of Martin's mortal death) continued to be celebrated as his principal feast. Perpetuus’ works brought about a revision of Martin's image, ensuring that the saint, as well as being celebrated as an ascetic and miracle-worker, started to be venerated as a holy bishop, with the bishops of Tours as the guardians of his cult. The new church also replaced the cathedral as the place where the majority of liturgies were celebrated. In AD 558 the church was burnt by Willichar and then roofed with tin by Eufronius, the eighteenth bishop of Tours, with financial help from King Chlothar, who came to Tours with many gifts in 561 (Histories 4.20-21, E02066 and E02099; Histories 10.31, E02418). In the church-complex of Martin, there were at least two courtyards (atria): western and eastern (Miracles of Martin 2.30, E03135). Off the western courtyard was the baptistery, where vigils on the Nativity of John the Baptist were held (Histories 10.31, E02392) and where relics of the Baptist were probably kept (Glory of the Martyrs 14, E00466). The church was decorated with frescoes (Histories 7.22). The tomb of Martin was located in the eastern apse – absida tumuli (Miracles of Martin 2.47, E03301). It was covered with a marble lid that was sent by Eufronius, priest and later bishop of Autun, about AD 470/475 (Histories 2.15, E02024). On the lid was a cloth – palla – which was treated as a powerful contact relic, often able to effect healing (Histories 5.48, E02176; Miracles of Martin 2.54, E03309; Miracles of Martin 4.43, E04634, Miracles of Martin 2.60, E03484). For further information see: Pietri 1987, 32-35; Van Dam 1993, 13-28; Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1961; Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1972; Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1976, 311-324.


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. Pietri, L., "Tours," in: N. Gauthier and J.-Ch. Picard (eds.), Topographie chrétienne des cités de la Gaule des origines au milieu du VIIIe siècle, vol. 5: Province ecclésiastique de Tours (Lugdunensis Tertia) (Paris, 1987), 19-39. Van Dam, R., Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, 1993), 13–28. Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., "Le tombeau de saint Martin retrouvé en 1860," Revue d'histoire de l'Église de France 144 (1961), 151–183. Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., "La basilique de Saint-Martin de Tours de Perpetuus (470) d'apres les fouilles archeologiques," in: Évolution générale et développements régionaux en histoire de l'art : actes du XXIIe Congrés international d'histoire de l'art, Budapest 1969, vol. 2 (Budapest, 1972). 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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