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E03132: Gregory of Tours, in his Miracles of Martin (2.27), recounts how Roccolen, who besieged Tours, was punished by *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) and died after he tried to cross the Loire River. At the same time an unnamed paralysed woman was cured in the church of Martin in Tours, and the swollen Loire prevented the enemy from crossing it; AD 575-576. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 576/581.

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posted on 2017-06-28, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Miracles of Martin (Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi) 2.27

In AD 575-576 Roccolen, sent by Chilperic, besieged Tours.

Postera autem die legatos ad civitatem mittit, ut homines, qui propter culpam minime vobis incognitam in sancti basilicam resedebant, extraherentur a clericis; quod si differebatur fieri, universa promittit incendio concremari. Haec nos audientes, maesti valde basilicam sanctam adimus et beati auxilia flagitamus. Statimque paralytica, quae per duodecim annos fuerat contracta, dirigitur. Ipse vero Ruccolenus ulteriorem ripam adgressus, morbo confestim regio sauciatur atque ab infirmitatibus Herodianis, quas enarrare longum videtur, allisus, et sicut cera a facie ignis guttatim defluens, quinquagesima die ab hydrope conflatus interiit. Sed nec hoc silebo, quod illo tempore alveus fluvii nutu Dei vel virtute beati viri absque pluviarum inundationibus repletus, hostem, ne civitatem laederet, transire prohibuit.

'On the following day he sent envoys to the city [who demanded] that the clerics expel the men who were seeking sanctuary in the saint’s church because of the misdeed that you know about; and Roccolen promised that everything would be consumed in a fire if there was any hesitation in doing this. When I heard these demands, I was very upset, and I went to the holy church and requested the assistance of the blessed [Martin]. And immediately a woman who had been crippled for twelve years was healed of her paralysis. But Roccolen himself advanced to the opposite bank [of the Loire River]. Immediately he was afflicted with the royal malady [of jaundice] and tormented with the ailments of Herod, which it seems tedious to describe; and just like a wax candle that drop by drop wastes away at the sight of a flame, fifty days later he was swollen from dropsy and died. But I will not be silent about the fact that at that time, either at the command of God or because of the power of the blessed man, the bed of the Loire was swollen even though there were no floods from rain, thereby preventing the enemy from crossing and harming the city.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 169. Translation: Van Dam 1993, 242-243, lightly modified (de Nie 2015, 591).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

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 - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Punishing miracle Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Women Ecclesiastics - bishops Officials


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.


Roccolen was sent by Chilperic in 575 to Tours to capture Guntram Boso, who had sought sanctuary in the church of Martin. Roccolen died on 29 February 576. Gregory also recorded this story in his Histories 5.4 (see E02121).


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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