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E02398: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (10.25), tells of the false Christ from Bourges (central Gaul) who was possessed by a demon: he prophesied the future, and cured people; his followers gave him precious gifts; but trying to attack Aurelius, the bishop of Le Puy-en-Velay (southern Gaul), he was killed in 591 (his followers, however, remained insane). Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 591/594.

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posted on 20.02.2017, 00:00 by CSLA Admin
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 10.25

Summary:

A man from Bourges, driven mad by a swarm of flies, was given by a demon the power of prophesying the future, and came to the Javols area (southern Gaul) and announced himself as Christ. He was accompanied by a woman he called Mary. People brought their sick to be cured by him, and gave him clothes, and gifts of gold and silver which he handed over to the poor. He prophesied both afflictions and good fortune. Gregory attributes these very real powers to devilish tricks: Sed haec omnia diabolicis artibus et praestigiis nescio quibus agebat, 'He did all this through diabolical arts and magic which I do not understand.'

He moved to Le Puy-en-Velay and planned to attack Aurelius, bishop of Le Puy, but one of the bishop's servants first seized and then killed the false Christ. Some of his followers, deranged by his demoniacal devices, never recovered their full sanity.

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 517-519. Summary: Katarzyna Wojtalik.

History

Evidence ID

E02398

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

591

Evidence not after

594

Activity not before

591

Activity not after

591

Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Tours

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 - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Healing diseases and disabilities Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Crowds Other lay individuals/ people Women Ecclesiastics - bishops Slaves/ servants

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Precious material objects

Source

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.

Discussion

This well-known story is important in illustrating the difficulty that Gregory had in distinguishing between supernatural powers channelled from God through an authentic holy person, and those from demons channelled through false saints.

Bibliography

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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