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E02455: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Confessors (5), recounts how *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) gained entry to heaven for *Vitalina (pious virgin of Artonne, ob. before 397, S01221), and visited Clermont (central Gaul), where he healed some of the sick but did not enter the city. Vitalina appeared in visions to people and revealed the day of her death; they kept vigils in her honour, and she provided wine and fish for her feast. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 587/588.

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posted on 2017-03-05, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Confessors 5

Martin came to Artonne, a village in the territory of Clermont, and visited the tomb of a religious woman (quaedam religiosa) Vitalina, who could not reach heaven since she had insulted Good Friday by washing her face on that day. He journeyed to Clermont and was approached by the senators of Clermont, who had come out to greet him. Appalled by this ostentatious welcome, Martin turned back, but they followed him and begged him to enter their city. Martin did not change his mind, but cured some of the sick of Clermont (the spot where he is said to have stood is now marked by a railing: 'Extat nunc in hoc loco [ille] cancellus, in quo sanctus dicitur stetisse'.). He then returned to Artonne, again visiting the tomb of Vitalina and prophesying that she would reach heaven after three days. She appeared in a vision to different people and told them the day of her death, on which they should celebrate her memory.

Quodam autem tempore celebratis in eius honore vigiliis, cum archipresbiter loci Eulalius clericos convivio invitasset, Edatius vero alius presbiter viduis ac pauperibus reliquis aedulium praepararet, et uni pisces deessent, alteri vinum bonum, commonitus piscator quidam per visum a virgine est, ut archipresbitero piscium copiam deferret. Surrexitque e lectulo, invenitque inmanem esocem in lapsum suum, quem ubi iussus fuit exhibuit. Edatio autem presbitero apparuit similiter per visum, dicens: 'Vade, et sub una arbore atrii invenies unum triantem; ipsum donans, vinum dignum aepulis pauperum conparabis'. At ille nulli quae viderat narravit; abiit, inquesivit et repperit; coemptumque vinum, pauperes Christi refecit. Sicque virtus virginis utrique apparens, de speciebus, quae minus erant, utrumque locoplantavit.

'Once, after the vigils had been celebrated in her honor, Eulalius, the archpriest of the place, invited the clerics to a meal, while another priest named Edatius prepared food for widows and other poor people. One [Eulalius] lacked fish, the other [Edatius] good wine. In a vision the virgin advised a fisherman to bring a supply of fish to the archpriest. The fisherman rose from his bed and discovered in his weir a huge pike which he brought where he had been ordered. Likewise the virgin appeared in a vision to the priest Edatius and said: ‘Go, and you will find a small gold coin [a trians] beneath a tree in the courtyard. After presenting the gold coin you will purchase wine worthy of a meal for the poor.’ The priest mentioned what he had seen to no-one; but he went out, looked, and found [the gold coin]. He bought wine and nourished the poor of Christ. In this way the power of the virgin appeared to both men and enriched both with the commodities that were lacking.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 301-302. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 6-8, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Vitalina, nun and virgin of Artonne (central Gaul), ob. AD : S01221 Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours (Gaul), ob. 397 : S00050

Saint Name in Source

Vitalina Martinus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts


  • 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 - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future) Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Aristocrats Officials


Gregory, of a prominent Clermont family with extensive ecclesiastical connections, was bishop of Tours from 573 until his death (probably in 594). He was the most prolific hagiographer of all Late Antiquity. He wrote four books on the miracles of Martin of Tours, one on those of Julian of Brioude, and two on the miracles of other saints (the Glory of the Martyrs and Glory of the Confessors), as well as a collection of twenty short Lives of sixth-century Gallic saints (the Life of the Fathers). He also included a mass of material on saints in his long and detailed Histories, and produced two independent short works: a Latin version of the Acts of Andrew and a Latin translation of the story of The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. Gregory probably wrote the greater part of the Glory of the Confessors (Liber in Gloria Confessorum) between late 587 and mid-588, since in ch. 6 he tells us that he has already written three books on the miracles of Martin (and the last datable miracle in Book 3 of his Miracles of Martin occurred in November 587), while in ch. 93 he tells us that Charimeris, who became bishop of Verdun in 588, was 'now' a royal referendary (so not yet a bishop). It is, however, likely that Gregory was collecting and recording these stories throughout his life, and for our purposes precise dating is not of great importance, since Gregory's views on the role of saints and the correct ways to venerate them do not seem to have changed during his writing life. (On the dating of the work, see Van Dam 2004, xii; Shaw 2016, 105.) The last two chapters (109 and 110), in which divine punishment falls on avaricious merchants in a manner that is not focused on a particular 'confessor', do not sit comfortably with the rest of the work, and, even more tellingly, near the end there are three chapters with headings but no content (105, 106 and 107, E02777). Consequently Krusch suggested (and this hypothesis has been widely accepted) that the work was left in an incomplete state, its final completion and editing being prevented by Gregory's death. As Gregory himself makes clear in his Preface (where he lists his eight works of hagiography), the Glory of the Confessors (just like his Glory of the Martyrs) is not about the lives of his saints, but is a collection of their miracle-stories: 'This, the eighth [book], we have written on the miracles of Confessors' (Octavum hunc scribimus de miraculis confessorum). Occasionally we do learn something about the lives of the men and women that he includes, but for the most part we are just given their name and, sometimes, religious status ('bishop', 'abbot', 'hermit', or whatever) and a description of a miracle (or miracles) that Gregory attributes to them. The large majority of these miracles are posthumous (in Life of the Fathers 2.2 Gregory expresses a preference for posthumous miracles, over miracles in life, as reliable indicators of sanctity - see E00023). Elsewhere in his work (in the preface to his Life of Illidius, in Life of the Fathers), Gregory provides a definition of a 'confessor': someone who had taken up 'various crosses of abstinence' (diversas abstinentiae cruces) to live the Christian life. But here in Glory of the Confessors, the category is in practice much more broadly drawn, to include any individual able to effect a miracle, who wasn't a martyr; in many cases Gregory knew nothing about the life of the confessor, only about one or more miracles, for the most part posthumous and at the tomb. For Gregory, anyone with an attested miracle (he would, presumably, have said 'reliably attested') was a 'confessor' and could be included in this work. Consequently, a remarkable number of extremely shadowy figures feature. To take a few examples: a man buried in a tomb in Clermont, from which scrapings of dust cured people (ch. 35, E02595); a chaste but loving couple of Clermont, whose sarcophagi miraculously moved to be next to each other (ch. 31, E02583); and three priests of the village of Aire-sur-l'Ardour, whose graves were slowly rising out of the ground (ch. 51, E02640). In all of these cases, and several more besides, Gregory could not even put reliable names to the confessors concerned. Gregory's interest was not in the people, but in the miraculous that manifested itself around holy individuals: for instance, in ch.96 (E02755) he tells the story of a hermit whose only recorded miracle was his ability to cook his food over a blazing fire in a wooden pot; Gregory uses the story as an example of how God makes even the elements of nature obey the needs of the holy. Only occasionally does Gregory name his informants. But it is clear that many of his stories derived from his own observations in Clermont and Tours, and from what he heard from visitors to Tours, and on his own travels; Gregory had visited large numbers of the shrines he described, had venerated many of these saints' relics, and had even been a participant at a few of the events described. Because Gregory was so inclusive in those he ranked as 'confessors', his text is rich in evidence of cults emerging around some very obscure figures, as long as people (including Gregory) believed they had miraculous powers from their graves. In many cases these cults were probably short-lived; but in a few cases they appear to have become at least semi-institutionalised: for instance, two otherwise wholly unknown virgins, buried on a hill in the Touraine, persuaded a man to build a stone oratory over their graves, and also persuaded the then bishop of Tours to come and bless it (ch. 18, E02561), and a young girl of the Paris region, about whom nothing but her name and pious epitaph were known, acquired a considerable reputation as a healer (particularly of toothache), and again a stone oratory over her grave (ch. 103, E02767). Unlike the Glory of the Martyrs, which includes many martyrs from beyond Gaul, almost all the saintly figures in Glory of the Confessors are Gallic: the sole exceptions are, from Syria, Symeon the Stylite (ch. 26, E02579), and, from Italy, Eusebius of Vercelli and Paulinus of Nola (chs. 3 and 108, E02453 and E02778). Within Gaul, after miracles involving angels, Hilary of Poitiers and Eusebius of Vercelli (chs. 1-3), the confessors are bunched together by their city-territory, in other words where they were buried (which in almost all cases is also where the recorded miracles occurred). There is no logic to the order in which Gregory presented these cities, beyond the fact that he placed the two cities he knew most about, Tours (chs. 4-25) and Clermont (chs. 29-35) very close to the start. At the end of the book, from ch. 90, saints appear from city-territories that have already been covered earlier in the work (chs. 90 and 100, Bourges; ch. 96, Autun; chs. 101-102, Limoges; ch. 103, Paris; ch. 104, Poitiers) – the most likely explanation is that these are saints that Gregory added after he had written the greater part of the book. There are some digressions in the book, as we would expect in a work by the discursive Gregory – for instance, a miracle story of Martin set in Visigothic Spain (ch. 12) leads Gregory into two stories on the spiritual powerlessness of Arian priests (chs. 13 and 14) – but there are fewer digressions than in Gregory's parallel work, the Glory of the Martyrs. There is a good general discussion of Glory of the Confessors in Van Dam 2004, ix-xxi, and of Gregory's hagiography more widely in Shaw 2015. (Bryan Ward-Perkins)


This story is included here as a miracle of Martin, but Vitalina is also presented as someone with miraculous powers (once Martin has gained her entry into heaven), whose feast day should be solemnly marked. Other than this entry in Gregory's Glory of the Confessors, there seems to be no evidence of a medieval cult of Vitalina (though, thanks to Gregory, she does currently have a chapel in the present-day church of Artonne, and a Wikipedia entry).


Edition: Krusch B. (ed.), Gregorii Turonensis Opera: Liber in gloria confessorum (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum I.2; 2nd ed.; Hannover 1969). Translation: Van Dam, R., Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs (Translated Texts for Historians 4; 2nd ed., Liverpool, 2004). Further reading: Shaw, R., "Chronology, Composition, and Authorial Conception in the Miracula", in: A.C. Murray (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden-Boston 2015), 102-140.

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