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E03482: Gregory of Tours, in his Miracles of Martin (2.60), recounts, as the final miracle of Book 2, how he himself was cured of repeated headaches at the tomb of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) in Tours, after he touched his head with the curtain that hung in front of the saint's tomb, and with the cloth that covered it; AD 580/581. Gregory closes the book, and thus his account of the first hundred miracles of Martin, with an invocation of Martin, asking for his help in this world and the next. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 581.

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posted on 2017-07-23, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Miracles of Martin (Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi) 2.60

Gregory describes how his plan for Book 2 of the Miracles of Martin was for it to include 60 miracles, thereby making up 100 miracles between Book 1 (with 40) and Book 2 (with 60). Having opened Book 2 with a miracle performed on himself, Gregory believes that the miracle he is about to recount was providentially ordained, so that he could close Book 2 with a similar miracle.

In quo cum quinquaginta novem virtutes discripsissem et sexagesimam adhuc adtentius praestolarem, subito mihi sinistrum capitis timpus artatur doloribus, et pulsantibus venis, defluentibus lacrimis, tantus inminebat cruciatus, ut oculum vi conpremerem, ne creparet. Quod dum per unam diem ac noctem graviter ferrem, mane adveniens ad basilicam sancti, orationi prosternor. Qua expleta, doloris locum velo, qui ante beatum dependebat sepulchrum, attegi. Quo tacto, protinus et pulsus venarum et lacrimarum fluxus stetit. Post triduum vero dextram capitis partem similis attigit dolor. Pulsabant venae, atque ubertim lacrimae defluebant. Iterum mane consurgens, pari ut prius modo contacto velo capite, sanus abscessi.

Transactis vero decim diebus, visum est mihi minuere sanguinem; tertia vero die post sanguinis diminutionem subiit mihi cogitatio, et, ut credo, per insidiatorem iniecta, quod haec quae pertuleram a sanguine evenissent, et, si vena protinus fuisset incisa, confestim ista cessassent. Dum haec cogito ac revolvo, amborum timporum venae prosiliunt, renovatur dolor, qui prius fuerat, et iam non unam partem capitis, sed totum arripit caput. Commotus ergo doloribus, ad basilicam propero, ac pro cogitatione prava deprecans veniam, palla, quae beatum tegit sepulchrum, caput attigi; mox, dolore sedato, sanus recessi de tumulo.

'As for this book, when I had described fifty-nine miracles and was still attentively awaiting the sixtieth, suddenly, my left temple was cramped with pain, and as my veins pulsed and tears flowed, the torment was so great that I pressed hard on my eye to keep it from bursting. When I had suffered like this severely for a day and a night, and day-break came, I went to the basilica of the saint and prostrated myself in prayer. After I finished, I touched the painful spot to the curtain that hung in front of the blessed tomb. At its touch, at once the pulsing pain and the flowing tears stopped. After three days, however, a similar pain attacked the right side of my head: the veins pulsed and abundant tears flowed. Again, after I had arisen at day-break and touched my head to the curtain as I had done earlier, I left healed.

Ten days later it seemed best to let my blood; but three days after letting my blood the idea came to me, as I believe insinuated by the tricks of the Deceiver, that my sufferings had been due to my blood, and that they would have ceased immediately if a vein had been immediately cut. While I was thinking these thoughts and turning them over in my mind, the veins in both my temples begin throbbing again, the pain that had been there before was renewed, and it now seized not just one side, but my whole head. Distressed by the pain, I hasten to the basilica, and while asking forgiveness for the perverse thought, touched my head to the cloth that covered the blessed tomb; at once, the pain was stilled, and I left the tomb healthy.'

Gregory writes that another book may follow, if more miracles occur, but, for the present, thanks God that he has been able to complete these two books. He closes with a request to Martin to help him, in this world and the next:

Deprecans, ut quod saepe confessor tribuit populis mihi peccatori largus indulgeat, purgetque me a morbis, quos saepe conspicit et intendit, restituat mihi lumen veritatis, eruat me ab infidelitatis lapsu, mundet cor et mentem a lurida lepra luxoriae, purget cogitationes a concupiscentiis pravis atque omnem a me facinorum molem diluat ac prosternat, ut, cum in iudicio sinistrae fuero parte locatus, ille me de medio hedorum sacrosancta dextera dignetur abstrahere, reservatumque post tergum, sententiam iudicis praestoletur. Cumque eo iudicante fuero flammis infernalibus deputatus, sacrosancto pallio, quo ille tegitur a gloria, me contectum excuset a poena, dicentibus regi angelis, quod quondam de monacho resuscitato dixerunt: "Iste est, pro quo Martinus rogat". Fiatque, ut, quia non mereor illa claritate vestiri, vel ab inruentibus tartarorum ministris merear liberari; nec tantum mihi noxa praevaleat, ut separer ab eius regno, quem fideliter sum confessus in saeculo. EXPLICIT LIBER II.

'And I implore the confessor to grant me, a sinner, generously what he has often granted to the people: that he may cleanse me of the errors which he often sees and notices, that he may restore in me the light of truth, prevent me from falling into disbelief, purge my heart and mind of the lurid leprosy of lust, purify my thoughts of perverse desires, and that he may wash and cast off the whole weight of my crimes from me, so that at the Judgement, when I have been placed on the left-hand side, he will deign to snatch me from the midst of the goats with his sacrosanct right hand and keep me safe behind his back while awaiting the Judge's verdict. And when, according to the Judge's decision, I have nevertheless been sentenced to the eternal flames, that he will wrap me in the sacrosanct mantle that covers him in his glory and rescue me from punishment, while the angels say to the Judge, as they once said about the monk who had been revived: "This is the man Martin is interceding for."

And let it happen that, although I do not deserve to be clothed in light, I may still deserve to be rescued from the servants of Tartarus when they attack, and that the weight of my sins alone may not prevail over me so that I be separated from the kingdom of the One whom I have faithfully confessed in this worldly life. END OF BOOK TWO'

Text: Krusch 1969, 179-180. Translation: de Nie 2015, 659-661, modified using Van Dam 1993, 258-259.


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 - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - other

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Precious cloths


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 final section of this chapter, where Gregory invokes Martin's support and aid, is particularly striking for the detailed image of how the saint might help Gregory on the day of Judgement.


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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