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E03088: Gregory of Tours, in his Miracles of Martin (2.16), recounts how *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) helped a boatman on the Loire at Baugy (central Gaul) to catch a fish, so that he could buy wine with which to celebrate the feast of Epiphany, AD 575. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 575/581.

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posted on 2017-06-25, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Miracles of Martin (Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi) 2.16

Igitur dum quodam tempore iter agerem in pago Balbiacinsi, ad Ligerem fluvium usque perveni. Cumque a nauta, qui nos ripae alteri transponere debeat, sollicitae requireremus loca, in qua piscaturi procederimus, locum indicat, dicens: 'Sit vobis beatus Martinus in adiutorium'. At nostri ingratae haec susceperunt, dicentes, quod in eius nomine numquam captura visa est evenisse. Et ille: 'Haud dubium, quia praestat haec virtus eius. Nam referam vobis, quae mihi hoc anno contigerit, vel qualiter per invocationem nominis eius, opitulante Domino, quae obtavi promerui. Denique dies erat epiphaniorum, et ingressus in prumptuario, nihil potui quod haurirem inveni, egressusque oravi, dicens: Beatissime Martine, transmitte mihi in hac sancta solemnitate aliquid vini, ne, epulantibus aliis, ego ieiunus remaneam. Dum autem tacitus is orarem, vocem in ulteriore ripa audio me vocantem, ut navem homini, qui iter agebat, adducerem. Verum ubi, acceptis contis, tunsorum etiam inpetum fluctus secare coepi et in medio utpute amne perveni, subito excussus magnus ex gurgite piscis in navim cecidit; quem confestim obpressum, transpositis hominibus, domi regressus sum, vinditumque piscem uno vini modio, cum ceteris sum refectus. Ergo noveritis, quam velociter in id quod invocatus fuerit, si petatur fideliter, apparebit'.

'Once while I was traveling in the district of Baugy I came to the Loire River. When I carefully asked the boatman who was contracted to transport me to the opposite bank about places to which I might go to fish, he pointed out a spot and said: 'May the blessed Martin assist you.' But my companions were annoyed upon hearing these words and said that no [fish] was ever seen to have been caught in his name. The boatman [replied]: 'There is no doubt that his power is responsible. For let me tell you what happened to me this year, and how I deserved [to receive] what I wished for by invoking his name and with the assistance of the Lord. For it was the day of Epiphany, and I found nothing to drink when I entered my storeroom. I exited, prayed, and said: 'Most blessed Martin, on this holy festival day give me some wine, so that I might not remain hungry while others are feasting.’ While I was silently praying, I heard on the opposite bank a voice calling me to bring my boat for a man who was traveling. I took my oars and began to row over the pounding fury of the waves. When I reached the middle of the river, suddenly a huge fish was thrown from a whirlpool and fell into my boat. Immediately I seized it; and after transporting the men, I returned home, sold the fish for a container of wine, and dined with the others. Hence you will know how quickly [Martin] will appear on behalf of something for which he has been invoked, if the request is made piously.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 164. Translation: Van Dam 1993, 235-236, lightly modified (de Nie 2015, 563-565).


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 - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Oral transmission of saint-related stories

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Other lay individuals/ people


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.


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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