University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E04071: Gregory of Tours, in his Miracles of Martin (3.60), recounts how several people, including himself, were cured with dust from the tomb in Tours of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) while Gregory was visiting his mother, probably in Chalon-sur-Saône (eastern Gaul), and then returning to Tours; AD 587/588. Gregory extolls the marvels of this dust. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 587/588.

online resource
posted on 2017-09-24, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Miracles of Martin (Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi) 3.60

Oportunitatis causa nuper exteterat, ut ad visitandam genetricem meam in terretorium Cavellonensis urbis adirem. Sed metuens superventuras infirmitates, de hoc pulvere, id est sepulchri beati antestitis, auferre et mecum deferre praesumpsi, scilicet ut, cum quempiam nostrorum morbus aliquis invasisset, virtus sancti ope consuetudinaria subveniret.

'An opportunity recently occurred for me to visit my mother in the territory of Chalon-sur-Saône. But because I was afraid of the misfortunes that could happen to us, I presumed to take some of this dust, that is, from the tomb of the blessed bishop, and to carry it with me, so that if some illness afflicted any of my companions, the saint’s power would assist with his usual strength.'

After Gregory arrived at his mother's, one of his servants was attacked by a fever and dysentery. Three days into the disease, Gregory mixed some of the dust with water and gave it to the servant, who was immediately cured.

During this journey Gregory met Veranus [bishop of Cavaillon], who told him that he had been cured of a quartan fever after he went to the church of Martin 'which was in that place' (quae in illo loco erat) and celebrated vigils there. Returning to Tours via Clermont, he found that Avitus, bishop of Clermont, was suffering from a tertian fever. After drinking some of the dust, Avitus was cured. Then a fever affected two of Gregory's servants; they were healed after drinking the dust.

Gregory was cured of a raging toothache by the dust:

Ego ipse in hoc itinere, cum dolorem dentium graviter sentirem, et iam non solum ipsi dentes, sed omne caput venarum pulsibus ac dolorum spiculis figeretur, ac timpora valide prosilirent, hoc praesidium expetii, sed mox, dolore depresso, convalui. O tyriacam inenarrabilem! O pigmentum ineffabile! O antidothum laudabile! O purgatorium, ut ita dicam, caeleste! Quod medicorum vincit argutias, aromatum suavitates superat ungentorumque omnium robor supercrescit; quod mundat ventrem ut agridium, pulmonem ut hisopum, ipsumque caput purgat ut pyretrum. Etiam non solum membra debilia solidat, sed, quod his omnibus magis est, ipsas illas conscientiarum maculas abstergit ac levigat.

Sufficiant ergo haec huic libello, quae indita sunt. Tamen, si adhuc miracula cernere meremur, placet ea alteri libello inseri, ut ea quae ostenduntur non oculi, sed magis debeant populari. De cetero vero virtutem eius deposcimus, ut qui talia praestat ex tumulo nos iam a peccatis Deo mortuos suscitare dignetur mortis istius de sepulchro, ut in illo resurrectionis carnis omni tempore nobis obteneat indulgentiam, cum ille provehitur ad coronam.

'During this journey I myself suffered from a painful toothache. When not just my teeth but my entire head was pierced by the pounding of my veins and by my stinging pains, and when my temples were twitching madly, I sought this protection. Soon my pain lessened and I recovered. O indescribable antidote! O ineffable balm! O praiseworthy remedy! O purgative, that I might term heavenly! This dust defeats the skill of doctors, surpasses sweet scents, and is more powerful than all strong ointments. Like scammony it purges the stomach, like hyssop, the lungs; and like pyrethrum it cleanses even the head. Not only does it strengthen weak limbs, but— something that is more important than all these things— it removes and lightens the very blemishes of conscience.

Let these stories that have been included be enough for this book. But if we are still worthy to see [more] miracles, it is proper for them to be included in another book, so that the miracles that are revealed ought rather to be publicized, not concealed. As for the rest, I request [Martin’s] power so that he who reveals such [miracles] at his tomb might deign to revive me, already dead to God because of my sins, from the grave of this death. Then, when he is presented for his crown, he might obtain forgiveness for me at the moment of the resurrection of all flesh. '

Text: Krusch 1969, 197. Translation: Van Dam 1993, 283-284, modified (= de Nie 2015, 765-769). Summary: Katarzyna Wojtalik.


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 Slaves/ servants

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - dust/sand/earth Eating/drinking/inhaling 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.


There is some uncertainty over precisely where Gregory's mother was living (because of variant spellings of the city in the manuscripts) and over the circumstances of Gregory's visit to her, but it was probably in Chalon-sur-Saône in Burgundy, and Gregory probably visited her during an embassy to King Guntram (see Van Dam 1993, 283, n. 93). There is also uncertainty over where the church of Martin was located, where Bishop Veranus of Cavaillon (in Provence) was healed (Van Dam 1993, 139, n. 110). This chapters offers the fullest account of Gregory's habit of travelling with dust from Martin's tomb, as an insurance against unfortunate eventualities.


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.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager