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E02926: Gregory of Tours, in his Miracles of Martin (1.35), recounts how one of his servants had in his home a piece of wood taken from the railing around the bed of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) that was in Martin's monastery. The servant's family became ill, and, warned in a dream, he brought the wood to Gregory, after which the family was cured; in Clermont (central Gaul), 563/564. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 573/576.

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posted on 2017-06-05, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Miracles of Martin (Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi) 1.35

Fide commonente, quidam ex nostris lignum venerabilem de cancello lectuli, quod est ad monasterium sancti domni, me nesciente, detulerat, quod in hospitiolo suo pro salvatione retenebat. Sed — credo, non sic honorabatur aut diligebatur, ut sibi decuerat — coepit familia eius graviter aegrotare. Et cum penitus nesciretur, quid hoc esset, nec emendaretur aliquid, sed cotidie ageretur deterius, vidit in visu noctis personam terribilem, dicentem sibi: 'Cur sic tecum agitur?' Qui ait: 'Ignoro prorsus, unde hoc evenerit'. Dicit ei persona: 'Lignum, quod de lectulo domni Martini tulisti, neglegenter tecum hoc retenis, ideo haec incurristi. Sed vade nunc, defer eum Gregorio diacono, et ipse eum secum reteneat'. At ille nihil moratus mihi exhibuit. Quod ego cum summa veneratione collectum loco digno reposui. Et sic omnis familia in domo eius sanata est, ita ut nemo ibidem deinceps aliquid mali perferret.

'One of my servants, motivated by faith, brought back [a piece of] venerable wood from the railing around the bed that is in the monastery of the holy lord [Martin] and kept it in his cottage for protection. I was unaware [of this]. But his family fell severely ill — I think [because] this wood was not honoured or respected as much as it merited. And since the man was completely ignorant about what was happening, and since the situation was not improved but every day deteriorated further, in a vision during the night he saw a terrifying personage who said to him: 'Why are you suffering this way?' The man replied: 'I am completely ignorant about the reason for what has happened.' The personage said to him: 'You have suffered these misfortunes because you keep with you, without due care, the wood that you took from the bed of lord Martin. But go now, take this wood to the deacon Gregory, and let him keep it in his possession.' Immediately the man brought [the wood] to me. With the greatest reverence I took it and put it in a worthy place. And so the entire family in his home was cured, with the result that thereafter no-one there suffered any misfortune.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 155. Translation: Van Dam 1993, 225 (de Nie 2015, 519, 521).


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 - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult Activities - Miracles

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

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Slaves/ servants

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - other Theft/appropriation of relics Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Privately owned 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'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.


The servant presumably took this piece of wood during Gregory's pilgrimage to Tours in 563 (see E02923), so these events can be dated to shortly afterwards.


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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