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E02805: Gregory of Tours, in his Miracles of Martin (1.6), recounts how Perpetuus, bishop of Tours (c. 460-490), built a new church to house the body of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050), and, with miraculous help, transferred into it the body of the saint. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 573/576.

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posted on 2017-05-14, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Miracles of Martin (Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi) 1.6

Anno sexagesimo quarto post transitum gloriosi domni Martini beatus Perpetuus Turonicae sedis cathedram sortitus est dignitatis. Adeptusque hunc apicem, cum magno votorum consensu fundamenta templi ampliora quam fuerant supra beata membra locare disposuit. Quod sagaci insistens studio, mirifice mancipavit effectui. De qua fabrica multum quod loqueremur erat; sed, quia praesens est, conticere exinde melius putavimus. Adveniente ergo optato tempore sacerdoti, ut templum dedicaretur, et sanctum corpusculum a loco ubi sepultum fuerat transferretur, convocavit beatus Perpetuus ad diem festum vicinos pontifices, sed et abbatum ac diversorum clericorum non minimam multitudinem. Et quia hoc in Kalendis lulii agere volebat, vigilata una nocte, facto mane, accepto sarculo, terram quae super sanctum erat tumulum coeperunt effodere. Quo detecto, manus, ut eum commoverent, iniciunt, ibique multitudo tota laborans, nihil prorsus per totam diem proficit. Vigilata denique alia nocte, mane temptantes iterum nihil omnino agere potuerunt. Tunc conturbati atque exterriti, quid facerent nesciebant. Dicit eis unus ex clericis: 'Scitis, quia post hunc triduum natalis episcopati eius esse consueverat, et forsitan in hac die se transferri vos admonet'. Tunc ieiuniis et orationibus ac iugi psallentio die noctuque insistentes, triduum illud continuatione duxerunt. Quarta autem die accedentes ponentesque manus, non valebant penitus movere sepulchrum. Pavore autem omnes exterriti, iam in hoc stantes, ut terra vasculum quod detexerant operirent, apparuit eis veneranda canities senis, ad instar nivis candorem efferens, dicens se esse abbatem, ait eis: 'Usquequo conturbamini et tardatis? Non videtis domnum Martinum stantem vobis iuvare paratum, si manus adponitis?' Tunc iactans pallium quod utebatur, posuit manum ad sarcofagum cum reliquis sacerdotibus, crucibus paratis et cereis, inpositaque antephonam, dederunt cuncti voces psallentium in excelso. Tamen ad senis conatum protinus sarcofagum in summa levitate commotum, in loco ubi nunc adoratur, Domino annuente, perducitur. Quod ad voluntatem sacerdotis conpositum, dictis etiam missis, ut ventum est ad convivium, requirentes sollicite senem, nequaquam repperiunt. Sed nec homo quidem extetit, qui eum de basilica exire vidisset.

'Sixty-four years after the death of the glorious lord Martin the blessed Perpetuus became bishop of the honorable see of Tours. After he acquired this high office he decided, in agreement with many prayers, to lay the foundations for a larger church than had previously been over the blessed body. He encouraged this project with wise enthusiasm and completed it with marvelous workmanship. There is much that I might say about this building; but since it is still here, I have decided it is therefore better to be silent. When the blessed bishop Perpetuus came at the anticipated time to dedicate the church and to transfer the holy body from the spot where it had been buried, he assembled the neighboring bishops for the festival day as well as a large crowd of abbots and various clerics. Since he wished to complete [this transfer] on the calends of July, they kept vigils during the night. When morning came, they [each] took a hoe and began to dig up the dirt that was on top of the holy coffin. They uncovered the coffin and took hold to move it; but even though the entire crowd worked, it accomplished nothing at all during the entire day. They kept vigils for another night and tried again in the morning; but again they were unable to accomplish anything at all. Then they were upset and frightened and did not know what they might do. One of the monks said to them: “You know that it has been customary to observe this bishop’s anniversary in three days; perhaps he is telling you that he is to be transferred on that day.” Day and night they devoted themselves to fasts and prayers and constant chanting of Psalms, and they passed those three days without interruption. On the fourth day they went, took hold of the coffin, but were unable to move it at all. Everyone was horrified with fear, and they were already on the verge of covering with dirt the body that they had uncovered. Then there appeared to them a distinguished old man with white hair that gleamed like snow who said that he was an abbot. He said to them: “How long are you to be confused and delay? Do you not see lord Martin standing ready to assist you, if you take hold?” He tossed aside the cloak he was wearing and took hold of the sarcophagus with the other bishops. They prepared crosses and candles and recited the antiphon, and everyone chanted Psalms on high. Then with the old man’s assistance the sarcophagus was very easily lifted and immediately moved to the place where it is now honored with the approval of the Lord. This was accomplished in accordance with the wishes of Bishop Perpetuus. After the celebration of mass they went to a banquet, and although they looked carefully for the old man, they never found him; but there was no one who had seen him leave the church.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 141-142. Translation: Van Dam 1993, 208-209.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours (Gaul), ob. 397 : S00050

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles


  • 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

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Construction of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Power over objects Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Ecclesiastics - abbots

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Transfer, translation and deposition of relics

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Crosses 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's Miracles of Martin (full title Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi, 'Books of the Miracles of Saint Martin the Bishop'), consists of four books of miracles, 207 chapters in all, effected by Martin, primarily at his grave and shrine in Tours. Most of them occurred at the time of the saint's festivals, on 4 July and 11 November. Gregory tried to record the miracles in chronological order, so historians have been able to calculate quite precisely the dates of the events and miracles mentioned in the work. This fairly precise chronology has enabled scholars to determine the dates of completion of each book. There have been three main dating schemes proposed for the composition of the four books. The oldest was suggested by Monod in 1872, another by Krusch in 1885, and then one by Van Dam in 1993 (for fuller discussion, see Shaw 2015, 103-105). Their datings of the individual books do not vary substantially, and in our entries we have given only those of Van Dam. Shaw 2015 convincingly demolishes an earlier theory, that Gregory wrote the Miracles in two distinct stages: a first stage that was written during a particular period, and a second stage in the early 590s, in which Gregory revised the whole work. Book 1, with 40 chapters, was written between 573 and 576. In the prologue, Gregory mentions that he started writing after he became bishop of Tours in August 573. Book 1 must have been completed by 576, since Venantius Fortunatus in a letter to Gregory of that year referred to it (Epistula ad Gregorium 2, prefatory letter to Fortunatus' Life of Martin, MGH Auct. ant. 4.1, p. 293). Book 2 consists of 60 chapters. It must have been finished before November 581, because the last miracles it mentions occurred in November 580, while the first ones recorded in Book 3 happened in November 581. Using the same methodology, the completion of Book 3, which also covers 60 chapters, can be dated between 587 and July 588. Book 4, which consists of 47 chapters, seems never to have been completed, presumably because of Gregory’s death. There are two main arguments in support of the idea that it is unfinished. Firstly, Book 4 has no conclusion and no tidy number of chapters, while each of Books 1 to 3 has these elements. Secondly, the last story recorded in Book 4 is not about Gregory himself, unlike the final stories of Books 2 and 3. Book 1 covers miracles that occurred before Gregory’s episcopate in Tours. The next three books are a running chronicle of Martin’s miracles under Gregory’s episcopate. Some of the miracles are recorded in very summary form, while others are much more elaborately presented: because of this, it has been argued that Gregory first jotted down notes, and only subsequently gave the stories full literary treatment (which in some cases, he was never able to do). The three completed books of the Miracles of Martin were probably released as they were completed, rather that published together. In this sense they are the exception amongst Gregory's writings, since the rest of his work was not finally completed and seems to have been unpublished at the time of his death. For discussion of the work, see: Krusch, B. (ed.), Gregorii episcopi Turonensis miracula et opera minora (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 1,2; 2nd ed.; Hannover, 1969), 2–4. Monod, G., Études critiques sur les sources de l’histoire mérovingienne, 1e partie (Paris, 1872), 42–45. 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. Van Dam, R., Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, 1993), 142–146, 199.


Perpetuus was ordained as bishop of Tours in c. 460. The church of Martin built by Perpetuus was also recorded by Gregory in his Histories 2.14 (see E02023).


Editions and translations: Krusch, B. (ed.), Gregorii episcopi Turonensis miracula et opera minora (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 1,2; 2nd ed.; Hannover, 1969), 134–211. Van Dam, R. (trans.), Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, 1993), 200–303. de Nie, G. (ed. and trans.), Lives and Miracles: Gregory of Tours (Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 39; Cambridge MA, 2015), 421–855. Further reading: Murray, A.C. (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden-Boston, 2015). Shanzer, D., "So Many Saints – So Little Time ... the Libri Miraculorum of Gregory of Tours," Journal of Medieval Latin 13 (2003), 19–63.

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