University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E04383: Gregory the Great writes the Dialogues, recounting miraculous stories with various local saints as their subject. Written in Latin in Rome, c. 593. Overview entry.

online resource
posted on 2017-11-17, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Gregory the Great, Dialogues

Summary and Description:

In the Dialogues, Gregory the Great records miraculous stories about a number of Italian saints. He presents these stories as a set of dialogues between himself and his student, Peter. Peter outlines the value of these stories in the prologue of Book 1:

In expositione quippe qualiter inuenienda atque tenenda sit uirtus agnoscitur, in narratione uero signorum cognoscimus inuenta ac retenta qualiter declaratur. Et sunt nonnulli quos ad amorem patriae caelestis plus exempla quam praedicamenta succendunt. Fit uero plerumque in audientis animo duplex adiutorium in exemplis patrum, quia et ad amorem uenturae uitae ex praecedentium conparatione accenditur, et iam si se esse aliquid aestimat, dum de aliis meliora cognouerit, humiliatur.

‘An explanation of Scripture teaches us how to attain virtue and persevere in it, whereas a description of miracles shows us how this acquired virtue reveals itself in those who persevere in it. Then, too, the lives of the saints are often more effective than mere instruction for inspiring us to love heaven as our home. Hearing their example will generally be helpful in two ways. In the first place, as we compare ourselves with those who have gone before, we are filled with a longing for the future life; secondly, if we have too high an opinion of our own worth, it makes us humble to find that others have done better.’

Gregory then recounts several miraculous stories. In each case, he is careful to cite the source of the stories, hinting at a world in which these accounts were transmitted orally. Some of the stories refer to posthumous miracles brought about by the relics of well-known saints, including *Sebastian (martyr of Rome, S00400) and *Peter (the Apostle, S00036), described in $E04438 and $E04481. Gregory also describes saints appearing to devotees in miraculous visions ($E04507; $E04581; $E04587; $E04588; $E04597).

The majority of the stories, however, refer to the miracles which local saints effected. Most of these events took place within the saint’s own lifetime. The following saints are the subject of stories in the Dialogues:

*Honoratus (6th c. abbot and founder of Fondi, S01662) Dialogues 1.1 = $E04384.
*Libertinus (6th c. abbot of Fondi, S01708) Dialogues 1.2 = $E04428.
*Equitius (6th c. abbot in the province of Valeria, S01710) Dialogues 1.4 = $E04430.
*Constantius (6th c. sacristan of northern Italy, S01711) Dialogues 1.5 = $E04431.
*Marcellinus (6th c. bishop of Ancona, S01712) Dialogues 1.6 = $E04432
*Nonnosus (6th c. abbot of Mount Soracte, S01713) Dialogues 1.7 = $E04433.
*Anastasius (6th c. abbot of Suppentonia, S01714) Dialogues 1.8 = $E04436.
*Boniface (6th c. bishop of Ferentino, S01715) Dialogues 1.9 = $E04437.
*Fortunatus (6th c. bishop of Todi, S01716) Dialogues 1.10 = $E04438.
*Martyrius (6th c. monk of Valeria, S01717) Dialogues 1.11 = $E04440.
*Severus (6th c. priest of Antodoco, S01718) Dialogues 1.12 = $E04441.

*Benedict (monk of Nursia, ob. 547, S01727) Dialogues 2 = $E04450.
*Scholastica (nun of central Italy, ob. 543, S01728) Dialogues 2.33-34 = $E04455.

*John I (Bishop of Rome, ob. 526, S00308) Dialogues 3.2 = $E04459.
*Agapitus I (bishop of Rome, ob. 536, S00811) Dialogues 3.3 = $E04443.
*Datius (bishop of Milan, ob. 552, S00558), Dialogues 3.4 = E00846.
*Sabinus (bishop of Canosa, ob. 556, S01729) Dialogues 3.5 = $E04444.
*Cassius (bishop of Narni, ob. 558, S01730) Dialogues 3.6 = $E04460.
*Constantius (6th c. bishop of Aquino, S01731) Dialogues 3.8 = $E04462.
*Frigdianus, (bishop of Lucca, S01732) Dialogues 3.9 = $E04463.
*Sabinus (bishop of Piacenza, ob. 420, S01732) Dialogues 3.10 = $E04464.
*Cerbonius (bishop of Populonia, ob. c. 575, S01752) Dialogues 3.11 = $E04472.
*Fulgentius (6th c. bishop of Otricoli, S01753) Dialogues 3.12 = $E04473.
*Floridus (6th c. bishop of Perugia, S01754) Dialogues 3.13 = $E04475.
*Isaac, (6th c. abbot of Spoleto, S01755) Dialogues 3.14 = $E04476.
*Euthychius (6th c. abbot near Nursia, S01756) Dialogues 3.15 = $E04478.
*Florentius (6th c. monk of Nursia, S01757) Dialogues 3.15 = $E04479.
*Martin (6th c. hermit of Monte Massico, S01758) Dialogues 3.16 = $E04480.
*Benedict (6th c. hermit near Rome, S01759) Dialogues 3.18 = $E04482.
*Zeno (bishop of Verona, ob. 371, S01558) Dialogues 3.19 = $E04483.
*Stephen (6th c. priest of Valeria, S01760) Dialogues 3.20 = $E04484.
*Acontius (6th c. sacristan of Monte Preneste, S01761) Dialogues 3.23–4 = $E04485.
*Menas (6th c. hermit of Samnium, S01772) Dialogues 3.26 = $E04499.
*Hermengild (martyr and Visigothic prince, ob. 585, S01771) Dialogues 3.31 = $E04502.
*African confessors whose tongues were cut out by the Vandals (S01481) Dialogues 3.32 = $E07832
*Eleutherius (6th c. abbot of Spoleto, S01770) Dialogues 3.33 = $E04503.
*Amantius (6th c. priest of Tuscany, S01768) Dialogues 3.35 = $E04504.
*Maximian (bishop of Syracuse, ob. 594, S01769) Dialogues 3.36 = $E04505.
*Sanctulus (6th c. priest, S01767) Dialogues 3.37 = $E04506.

*Suranus (6th c. abbot of Sura, S01843) Dialogues 4.23 = $E04590.
*Paschasius (deacon of Rome, ob. 511/514, S01844) Dialogues 4.43 = $E04594.

Summary: Frances Trzeciak. Text: de Vogüé 1978. Translation: Zimmerman 1959.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Honoratus (abbot of Funda) : S01662 Libertinus, abbot of Funda : S01708 Equitius, abbot in Valeria : S01710 Constantius, sixth century Bishop of Aquino : S01731 Constantius, sixth-century sacristan : S01711 Marcellinus, bishop of Ancona : S01712

Saint Name in Source

Honoratus Libertinus Equitius Constantius Constantius Marcellinus Nonnosus Anastasius Bonifatius Fortunatus Martyrius Severus Benedictus Scholastica Johannes Agapitus Datius Sabinus Cerbonius Fulgentius Floridus Isaac Euthychius

Related Saint Records

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Rome and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Rome Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory the Great (pope)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Ecclesiastics - abbots Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


Gregory the Great (Pope, 590-604) wrote his Dialogues on the Lives and Miracles of the Italian Fathers (Dialogi de vita et miraculis patrum italicorum) in Rome around 593. Organised into four books, the first three are a collection of lives and miracles of various Italian saints. The longest is the Life of Benedict of Nursia, which comprises the entirety of book 2. The final book consists of an essay on the immortality of souls after death. As a whole, the work documents and explains the presence of the miraculous in the contemporary world and the ability of saints to effect miracles both before and after death. The attribution of the Dialogues to Gregory has been disputed, most recently by Francis Clark who argued that the work was created in the 680s in Rome. Others - such as Adalbert de Vogüé, Paul Meyvaert and Matthew dal Santo - have, however, strongly argued for Gregory's authorship and it is broadly accepted that Gregory was responsible for the Dialogues. For a discussion of Gregory's devotion in writing the Dialogues, see E04383, and for the role of the Dialogues as a tract justifying the nature of miracles and theorising on the immortality of souls, see E04506. Gregory's principal aim in collecting the miracle stories of the holy men and a very few women of sixth-century Italy was to show the presence of God's power on earth as manifested through them, rather than to encourage the cult of these individuals. Indeed, though posthumous miracles at the graves of a few individuals are recorded (and also a few miracles aided by contact relics of dead saints), there is very little emphasis in the Dialogues on posthumous cult; some of the miraculous events that Gregory records (e.g. E04429) are not even attributed to named individuals. Although very few of the holy persons in the Dialogues are 'proper' saints, with long-term cult, we have included them all in our database, for the sake of completeness and as an illustration of the impossibility of dividing 'proper' saints from more 'ordinary' holy individuals.


Edition: Vogüé, A. de, Grégoire le Grand, Dialogues, Sources chrétiennes 254 (introduction), 260 (Books 1-3), 265 (Book 4) (Paris: Cerf, 1978, 1979, 1980). Translation: Zimmerman, O.J., Dialogues of Saint Gregory the Great, Fathers of the Church 39 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1959). Further Reading: Clark, F.,The 'Gregorian' Dialogues and the Origins of Benedictine Monasticism (Leiden: Brill, 2003). Dal Santo, M., "The Shadow of A Doubt? A Note on the Dialogues and Registrum Epistolarum of Pope Gregory the Great (590–604)," Journal of Ecclesiatical History, 61.1, (2010), 3-17. Meyvaert, P., "The Enigma of Gregory the Great’s Dialogues: A Reply to Francis Clark," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 39 (1988), 335–81. Vogüé, A. de, "Grégoire le Grand et ses Dialogues d’après deux ouvrages récents," Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique 83 (1988), 281–348.