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E02687: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Confessors (70), recounts a miracle of *Mitrias (saint of Aix-en-Provence, S01288): a villa of the church of Aix (southern Gaul) was seized by a magnate of the court of King Sigibert; Franco, bishop of Aix, appealed to the saint and stopped all veneration at his tomb until the villa was returned; the evil-doer was struck down with illness, eventually relented, and then expired. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 587/588.

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posted on 2017-04-12, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Confessors 70

Mitrias of Aix-en-Provence, though a slave (conditione servus), was free in justice. He was a very holy man, as readers of the story of his life's struggle testify (ut ferunt legentes certaminis eius textum), and the miracles he performs show that he is in heaven. Once, when Franco was bishop of Aix, a certain Childeric, an important man at the court of Sigibert (primus apud Sigibertum regem), seized a villa belonging to the church, claiming that it held the villa improperly. Although Franco threatened the vengeance of Mitrias, Childeric kept the villa and, in addition, fined Franco three hundred gold coins (aurei).

Denique condemnatus spoliatusque sacerdos ad urbem redit, atque prostratus in orationem coram sepulchro sancti, dicto psalmi capitello, ait: 'Non hic accenditur lumen, neque psalmorum modolatio canitur, gloriosissime sancte, nisi prius ulciscaris servos tuos de inimicis suis, resque tibi violenter ablatas eclesiae sanctae restituas'. Haec cum lacrimis effatus, sentes cum acutis aculeis super tumulum proiecit; egressusque, clausis ostiis, simliter in ingressu alias collocavit.
Nec mora, corripitur pervasor a febre, decumbit lectulo, exhorret cibum, fastidit et potum, profert aestuans iuge suspirium. Cui etiam si ab ardore febris interdum sitis accederet, aquam tantum, nihil aliud hauriebat. Quid plura? In hac aegrotatione integrum ducit annum; sed mens prava non flectitur. Interea labitur caesaries cuncta cum barba, et ita omne caput remansit nudum, ut putaris eum olim sepultum, nuper eiectum fuisse post funera de sepulchro. His et talibus miser adflictus malis, sero recogitat, dicens: 'Peccavi, eo quod expoliaverim eclesiam Dei atque episcopo sancto intulerim iniuriam. Nunc autem ite quantotius et, redditam villam, sexcentos aureos super tumulum sancti deponite. Est enim mihi spes, quod res reddita tribuat aegrotanti medellam'. Quod audientes homines eius, accepta pecunia, fecerunt, sicut eis fuerat imperatum. Reddiderunt agrum solidosque super sepulchrum servi Dei posuerunt. Sed cum hoc fecissent, statim ille in loco quo erat spiritum exalavit, lucratusquer est detrimentum animae per adeptionem adquesitionis iniquae. Episcopus autem obtenuit ultionem de inimico eclesiae, quam promiserat futurum per athletae Dei virtutem.

'After bishop Franco was sentenced and despoiled, he returned to his city. He knelt in prayer before the tomb of the saint, recited the verses of a psalm, and said: ‘Most glorious saint, no more lights will be lit here, no more melodies of psalms will be sung, until you first avenge your servants from their enemies and restore to the holy church the properties that have been violently taken from you.’ He wept as he said this. Then he threw briers with sharp thorns on top of the tomb; and having left, he shut the doors and put other briers likewise in the entrance.
Immediately the man who had invaded [the church property] was struck with a fever. He lay on his bed, rejected food, refused to drink, and in his fever continually panted. Even if he occasionally became thirsty because of the burning of his fever, he drank only water and nothing else. Why more? He spent an entire year in this illness, but his evil mind was not changed. Meanwhile all his hair and his beard fell out, and his entire head was so naked that you might think he had once been buried and then recently taken from his tomb after a funeral. After the wretched man was afflicted with these and other similar misfortunes, he reconsidered at a late hour and said: ‘I have sinned because I plundered the church of God and I brought insult upon the holy bishop. Now, however, go as quickly as possible and, after restoring the villa, place six hundred gold pieces on the tomb of the saint. For I hope that after the property has been returned he might grant a cure to a sick man.’ His men listened to what he said, took the money, and did as had been commanded of them. They restored the estate and placed the gold coins on the tomb of the servant of God. But when they did this, immediately he [Childeric] exhaled his spirit in the place where he was. Because he had unjustly seized this acquisition, he earned the loss of his soul. The bishop obtained from this enemy of the church the revenge that he had predicted would result from the power of the athlete of God.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 338-339. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 51-52, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mitrias, confessor in Aix-en-Provence (south-east Gaul), ob. before AD 6th century : S01288

Saint Name in Source


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 - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Destruction/desecration of saint's shrine

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Unspecified miracle Punishing miracle Miracle after death Miraculous protection - of church and church property

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Officials Monarchs and their family Slaves/ servants

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Oil lamps/candles


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)


From the way that he describes it, it seems that Gregory had not himself read a Life of Mitrias; but knew of one at second hand. The story recounted here, with its remarkable account of the threatening of a saint, can be dated to the reign of King Sigibert (561-575) in Gregory's own lifetime. Unfortunately he does not tell us where he learnt it.


Edition: Krusch, B., Liber in gloria martyrum, in: Gregorii Turonensis Opera. 2: Miracula et opera minora (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 1.2; 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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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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