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E02711: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Confessors (79), tells of the discovery and translation of the body of *Ursinus (first bishop of Bourges, S01294) that was buried under a vineyard. Its primary discoverer was Agustus, who had first built an oratory at Brives (near Bourges, central Gaul) to *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050), where relics of the saint cured him of severe disability, and had then become abbot of the church of *Symphorianus (martyr of Autun, S00322) just outside Bourges, built by Bishop Probianus. Ursinus appeared to Agustus in a vision and asked him to look for his tomb, but Probianus dismissed the story; Ursinus appeared again, this time also to *Germanus (bishop of Paris, ob. 576, S01166), who was visiting Bourges; the tomb and uncorrupt body were found. Ursinus' sarcophagus was lifted and brought to the church, entering it with the help of the saint, who performs miracles there. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 587/588.

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posted on 2017-04-18, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Confessors 79

Bituriga vero urbs primum a sancto Ursino, qui a discipulis apostolorum episcopus ordinatus in Galliis distinatus est, verbum salutis accepit atque eclesiam Biturigis primum instituit rexitque. Qui migrans a saeculo, in campo inter reliqua sepulchra populorum sepulturae locatus est. Non enim adhuc populus ille intellegebat sacerdotes Domini venerare eisque reverentiam debitam exhibere. Unde factum est, ut, increscente terra, plantata desuper vinea omnem memoriam de primo urbis sacerdote convelleret, et usque ad tempus illud quod Probianus episcopus urbis eius est subrogatus nullus de eo sermo haberetur.
Fuit autem quidam Agustus nomine de domo Desiderati quondam episcopi, cuius manus ac pedes ita contraxerunt, ut se non aliter nisi de geniculis atque cubitis sustentaretur, si alicubi processurus vellet incedere. Hic, inspirante Deo, de elymosinis devotorum apud Brivas vicum in honore sancti ac beatissimi Martini antestitis oratorium aedificavit; cuius cum in eo reliquias detulisset, statim directis membris sanus effectus est. Deinde collectis secum paucis monachis, sub regula monasterii degens, semper in oratione vacabat.
Unde factum est, ut in sequenti arcersitus ab episcopo, abba ordinaretur in basilicam sancti Simphoriani, quam memoratus pontifex fabricaverat ante conspectum muri Biturigi. Nec tamen monachos quos prius congregaverat relinquens, sed instituens eis praepositum, ipse utrasque cellulas gubernabat.

'Bourges first received the word of salvation from St Ursinus, who was ordained bishop by disciples of the apostles and selected for Gaul. Ursinus was the first to establish and govern the church at Bourges. After he migrated from this world, he was placed in a tomb in a field among the tombs of other people. For the people still did not understand how to venerate bishops of God and how to show the respect that was owed them. Hence it happened that as the dirt filled in, a vineyard was planted on top and buried all memory of the first bishop of the city. Until the time when Probianus was selected as bishop of the city, no one spoke of Ursinus.
There was a man named Agustus who was a member of the household of Desideratus, a previous bishop [of Bourges]. Agustus’ hands and feet were so contracted that whenever he wished to progress or go somewhere, he dragged himself in no other way than on his knees and elbows. Inspired by God he built from the alms of the pious an oratory in honour of the holy and most blessed bishop Martin in the village of Brives. When Agustus placed relics of Martin in the oratory, immediately his limbs were straightened and he was cured. Then he gathered a few monks with himself, lived according to the rule of a monastery, and was always occupied in prayer.
Hence it happened that subsequently Agustus was summoned by the bishop [Probianus] and ordained as abbot for the church of Saint Symphorianus that this aforementioned bishop had built in sight of the wall of Bourges. But Agustus did not leave the monks whom he had previously gathered; by appointing a prior for them he himself governed both communities.'

Ursinus appeared to Agustus at night and told him to find his grave, in the vision leading him by the hand to the place. But when Agustus told his bishop [Probianus] of this vision, he did not hold it of any account. Ursinus then appeared again to Agustus, and concurrently to Germanus, bishop of Paris, while he was on a visit to Bourges, this time leading Germanus and Agustus together to the spot. The next day, bishop and abbot compare their visions.

Igitur insequenti nocte accedentes illuc cum uno tantum clerico, qui cereum ferret, venerunt ad indicatum locum. Cumque fodentes usque in profundo, sepulchrum repperiunt. Quo detecto amotoque operturio, viderunt sanctum corpus tamquam dormientis hominis nulla putredine resolutum. Quod admirantes et iterum operturium conponentes, indicarunt episcopo data die quae viderant. Tunc ille, convocatis abbatibus et clero, cum honore atque psallentio levaverunt beatum sepulchrum; et quia vectes illi quibus ferebatur valde longi erant, cum venissent ad porticum, non poterant deflecti in ingressu eius, ut ad ostium aedis sine labore accederent. Tunc beatus Germanus elevata voce ait: 'Sanctae Dei sacerdos, si voluntas tua est in hac basilica ingredi, sentiamus levamen adiutorii tui. Et statim, amisso pondere, ita in summa levitate factum est sarcofagum, ut, relictis vectibus, pauci manibus ferrent quod usque ad locum illum multi detulerant. Et sic, celebratis missis, gaudente populo, iuxta altare sepelitur, multis se deinceps virtutibus manifestans.

So the next night they went there with only one cleric who carried a candle, and they came to the designated spot. As they dug deep down, they found the tomb. Once they uncovered it and removed its lid, they saw the holy body, as if of a man asleep, untouched by any decay. They wondered at it and then replaced the lid. When day came, they told bishop Probianus what they had seen. With the assembled abbots and clergy, and while psalms were being chanted, they raised the blessed tomb with honour. But because the poles on which the tomb was being carried were long, when they came to the porch, these could not be manoeuvred at its entrance in such a way as to approach the door of the church easily. Then the blessed Germanus raised his voice and said: ‘Holy bishop of God, if it is your will to enter this church, let us witness your uplifting assistance.’ Immediately the weight of the sarcophagus vanished and it became so light that the men dropped the poles, and a few of them lifted with their hands what many had brought to that spot. So, after the celebration of mass, Ursinus was buried next to the altar, while the people rejoiced. Thereafter he revealed himself in many miracles.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 346-348. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 59-61, modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours (Gaul), ob. 397 : S00050 Ursinus, bishop in Bourges (central Gaul), ob. AD 1st/3rd century : S01294 Symphorianus, martyr at Autun (Gaul), ob. 2nd/3rd c. : S00322 Germanus, bishop of Paris, ob. 576 : S01166

Saint Name in Source

Martinus Ursinus Symphorianus Germanus

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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Eucharist associated with cult

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future) Bodily incorruptibility Power over objects Saint aiding or preventing the translation of relics

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Aristocrats Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Ecclesiastics - abbots Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Discovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics


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)


Gregory is vague about the precise chronology of Ursinus' ministry, but certainly places it very early in the history of the Church: 'who was ordained bishop by disciples of the apostles and selected for Gaul' (qui a discipulis apostolorum episcopus ordinatus in Galliis distinatus est). In Histories 1.31 (E02013), however, he attributes the first mission to Bourges to an unnamed priest (not a bishop), and says that he was a disciple of the missionaries to Gaul of the reign of Decius (AD 249-251). It is impossible to reconcile these two contradictory accounts, both written by Gregory. Perhaps, between writing the passage in the Histories and composing this chapter about Ursinus in Glory of the Confessors, Gregory had heard a new (enhanced) version of the foundation of the church of Bourges. The phrase that Gregory uses to describe Ursinus' mission - qui a discipulis apostolorum episcopus ordinatus in Galliis distinatus est - is very close to the phrase he uses to describe the mission of Saturninus of Toulouse in Glory of the Martyrs 47 (E00545), ab apostolorum discipulis ordinatus in urbe Tolosacium est directus, perhaps indicating a common source for both stories. The story of the discovery of Urcinus' body is set in the time of Bishop Probianus, bishop of Bourges during the 550s and 560s (Van Dam 2004, 61, note 89) The precise location of the oratory of Martin built by Agustus at Brives is uncertain (Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1976, 62-63). Agustus was clearly associated with a previous bishop of Bourges, Desideratus, from whose household he came. It is therefore likely that the reluctance of Bishop Probianus to believe in Agustus' vision reflects a degree of rivalry between Probianus and his predecessor, Desideratus (Van Dam 2004, 61, note 89). This chapter is of course primarily a miracle-story of Ursicinus, but Gregory weaves into it a miracle of Martin, and also attributes to Germanus of Paris a role that is at least semi-miraculous.


Edition: Krusch B., 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 Confessors (Translated Texts for Historians 5; 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. Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., Les monuments religieux de la Gaule d'après les œuvres de Grégoire de Tours (Paris, 1976).

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