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E02767: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Confessors (103), tells of the tomb near Paris of *Criscentia (young girl of the territory of Paris, S01315): a man who swallows dust scratched from the tomb is cured; a sick moneyer sees the girl in a vision, who tells him to build an oratory over her grave; people with toothache who lay little sticks on the tomb, and then apply them to their teeth, find relief. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 587/588.

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posted on 2017-05-06, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Confessors 103

Tumulum erat in vico Parisiorum haud procul a loco, in quo senior, ut aiunt, eclesia nuncupatur, nullo operto tegumine; ibique in lapide habebatur scriptum: HIC REQUIESCIT CRISCENTIA SACRATA DEO PUELLA.
Sed nulla aetas recolere poterat, quale ei fuerit meritum vel quid egisset in saeculo. Nuper autem a quodam clerico hoc epytaphium legitur. Instigante vero fide, suspecti sunt habiti homines, quod aliquid cum divina maiestate virgo potuerit obtenere. Dum vero in hac suspitione penderent, quidam, quem ardor tertianae febris cum gravi tremore vexabat, erasi a tumulo parumper pulveris haurit, moxque, sedato tremore, convaluit. Vulgatumque verbum plerumque profuit multis in hac infirmitate detentis. Succedente deinde tempore, monitarius urbis [ipsius] graviter aegrotare coepit, cui in visione puella apparuit, dicens: "Vade", ait, "quantotius et tumulum Criscentiae virginis tege. Erit tibi hoc adiutorium, ne a morbo quo captus es diutius fatigeris". At ille confisus, calces inquerit, oratorium desuper construit, protinusque ab infirmitate laxatur. Sed ut virtus virginis in maioribus efferretur honoribus, cuidam ex urbe dens indoluerat, ita ut, intumescente maxilla, vix vel tenues cibi parumper capere possit. Pergit fide plenus ad tumulum, factaque hastula una de parte acuta, ut in humanis usibus ad purgandos dentes fieri solet, super sepulchrum puellulae ponit. Statimque ut exinde dentem quae dolebat attigit, omnis dolor obstipuit. Ex hoc enim accepto experimento, quos hic dolor vexat, huius virtutis ut expetunt praesidia, mox sanantur.

'In a village [in the territory] of Paris there was a tomb not far from the spot where, as they say, the church is called the ‘Older Church’. The tomb was not covered by a shelter. On the stone was this inscription: ‘Here lies Criscentia, a girl dedicated to God.’ But no generation could remember of what value her merit had been and what she had done in this world. Recently, however, a cleric read this epitaph. Under the motivation of their faith men suspected that the virgin could have influence with the divine majesty. While they continued in this suspicion, a man whom the burning of a tertian fever was distressing with severe tremors scratched a bit of dust from the tomb and drank it; soon his tremors were calmed and he was well. The news was published and was of great benefit to many people afflicted with this illness. At a later time a moneyer of the same city fell seriously ill. A girl appeared to him in a vision and said: ‘Go as quickly as you can and cover the tomb of the virgin Criscentia. This deed will assist you so that you will not suffer long from the illness that holds you.’ The man believed, looked for limestone, and built an oratory over the tomb; immediately he was freed from his illness. But so that the power of the virgin might be exalted by greater honours, one man from the city had such a painful tooth that his jaw swelled and he was barely able to chew a small piece of tender food. Filled with faith he went to the tomb. He made a little wooden stick pointed at one end, as is usually made for cleaning people's teeth, and put it on the tomb of the girl. As soon as it then touched the tooth that ached, all the pain went numb. After the reception of this proof, those whom this pain bothered were soon cured when they sought the assistance of her power.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 363-364. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 77-78.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Criscentia, virgin in Paris, ob. AD? : S01315

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


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

Construction of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - dust/sand/earth Eating/drinking/inhaling relics Making contact relics Contact relic - other

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects



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)


The church which the tomb of Criscentia was near is uncertain; Vieillard-Troiekouroff (p.210, 215) speculates that it might have been the church over the tomb of *Marcellus (5th c. bishop of Paris, S01301). This is the fullest account, of several in Gregory's Glory of the Confessors, of the emergence of a cult (though probably only a short-lived one) around the tomb of a wholly unknown person - in this case the initial stimulus was the pious wording of Criscentia's epitaph.


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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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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