University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E04113: Gregory of Tours, in his Miracles of Martin (4.15), recounts how a beekeeper from Auch (south-west Gaul), prayed successfully for the help of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) to recapture a swarm of bees, and promised the wax it would produce to Martin's church in Tours. When the wax was collected, a servant was miraculously cured of pain in the kidneys; both the wax and the servant were presented to Martin's church; AD 589/590. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 589/594.

online resource
posted on 2017-10-06, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Miracles of Martin (Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi) 4.15

In Ausciensi quoque terreturio erat homo Caelestis nomine, cui multa erant apiura alvearia. Ex quibus cum examen egressum alte conscendens longa conpeteret, et ille sequens nullum prorsus capiendi obteneret effectum, prostratus solo, sancti Martini invocat nomen, dicens: 'Si virtus tua, beatissime confessor, hoc examen retenere voluerit eumque ditioni meae reddiderit, quae in posterum ex eo procreata fuerint, mel usibus meis sumam, ceram vero ad luminaria basilicae tuae cura omni soliditate diregam. Haec effatus, cum adhuc terrae decumberet, statim examen apium super unam arbusculam, quae viro erat proxima, decidit et insedit, collectumque et in alveare reconditum domi detulit.

De quo infra duos aut tres annos multa congregavit. Ex quibus cum iam amplius quam ducentas cerae libras adgregatas haberet, rumor hostilitatis obortus est. At ille, ne votum suum perire cerneret, ceram fossa humo operuit. Pace quoque reddita, diaconum nostrum, ut eam peteret, arcessivit. Erat tunc cum eo puer, qui renum gravissimum perferebat dolorem. Qui accedens ad virum et cognoscens ab ore eius quae gesta fuerant, cera quae terra latebat detegi iubet. Puer vero, qui dolorem, quem diximus, patiebatur, accepto sarculo ut terram foderet, ait: 'Si tu propitius es, sancte Martine, ad hoc munus hominis huius aspiciendum, contingat virtus tua renes meos, et sis mihi salus, cum hanc detexero ceram'. Et percutiens sarculo terram, sonuit ossiculum renum eius, et statim omnis dolor ablatus est; et sic incolomis cum hac cera beatae basilicae praesentatus est.

'A man named Caelestis lived in the territory of Auch and owned many beehives. A swarm of bees left his hives, flew up high, and gathered far away. Caelestis followed but was completely unsuccessful at capturing [the bees]. He prostrated himself on the ground, called upon the name of Saint Martin, and said: 'Most blessed confessor, if your power wishes to guide this swarm and restore it to my possession, then, with regard to what these bees produce in the future, I will take the honey for my use but I will send all the wax for the lights in your church.' After he said this and while he was still lying on the ground, the swarm of bees at once came down and landed on a small tree that was near Caelestis. He collected the bees, put them in a hive, and brought them home.

Within two or three years he gathered much from this hive. After he had accumulated more than two hundred pounds of wax, there was report of an enemy attack. Because Caelestis did not want to see his vow unfulfilled, he buried his beeswax in a hole in the ground. Once peace was restored, he summoned my deacon to collect the wax. One of his servants suffered very severe pains in his kidneys. When he came to Caelestis and learned from his mouth what had happened, he ordered the wax hidden in the ground to be uncovered. Although this servant suffered from pain, as I said, he took a hoe, dug up the ground, and said: 'Saint Martin, if you are gracious in looking upon this gift of Caelestis, and if you are my deliverance, may your power touch my kidneys when I uncover this wax.' As he struck the ground with his hoe, a small bone in his kidneys made a noise and immediately his pain vanished entirely. Once healed, he was presented to the blessed church along with this beeswax.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 203-204. Translation: Van Dam 1993, 291, lightly modified (= de Nie 2015, 797-799).


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


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Miracle with animals and plants Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people Animals Foreigners (including Barbarians) Slaves/ servants

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - wax


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.


We have translated 'puer' as 'servant', for the man with kidney troubles; but he was presumably a slave, since he was presented as a gift to the church of Martin, along with the wax.


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