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E04430: Gregory the Great, in his Dialogues (1.4), describes a castration vision experienced by *Equitius (6th c. abbot in central Italy, S01710), which cured him of lust, and two posthumous miracles which took place at his tomb in the church of *Laurence (deacon and martyr of Rome, S00037) in central Italy. Written in Latin in Rome, c. 593.

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posted on 2017-12-06, 00:00 authored by frances
Gregory the Great, Dialogues 1.4

Gregory tells of Equitius' castration vision.

Hunc cum iuuentutis suae tempore acri certamine carnis incentiua fatigarent, ipsae suae temptationis angustiae ad orationis studium sollertiorem fecerunt. Cum que hac in re ab omnipotente deo remedium continuis precibus quaereret, nocte quadam adsistente angelo eunuchizari se uidit, eius que uisioni apparuit quod omnem motum ex genitalibus membris eius abscideret, atque ex eo tempore ita alienus extitit a temptatione, ac si sexum non haberet in corpore.

‘Finding himself much distressed as a young man by violent temptations of the flesh, Equitus turned with all the greater zeal to fervent prayer. One night while he was earnestly begging God for aid in this matter, he saw himself made a eunuch while an angel stood by. Through this vision, he realised that all disturbances of the flesh had been taken away, and from that time on he was a complete stranger to temptations of this kind as though his body were no longer subject to the tendencies of human nature.’

On another occasion, Equitius was able to see that Basil, a magician who disguised himself as a monk was a devil and not a monk. He was ejected from the monastery after tempting a nun with a fever. He struck fear into the hearts of two proud men: Julian, a protector of the church, and his servant. Gregory also describes his virtues as a preacher.

Equitius’ burial place is given as the church of Laurence. Several posthumous miracles took place here. One time, a farmer set a box of grain on the tomb. A gust of wind then blew only the box of grain off the tomb.

During the attack of the Lombards, several monks from Equitius’ monastery fled to his tomb at the church of St Laurence. When the Lombards broke into the tomb and forced the monks outside, intending to torture and kill them, one monk cried out to Equitus.

Ad cuius uocem protinus saeuientes langobardos inmundus spiritus inuasit. Qui corruentes in terram tandiu uexati sunt, quousque hoc cuncti etiam qui foris erant langobardi cognoscerent, quatenus locum sacrum temerare ultra non auderent.

‘At the sound of his voice, an unclean spirit seized the Lombards. They fell to the ground and were tormented relentlessly until all, even those outside, came to realise what was happening. After that, they no longer dared to profane the holy place.’

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


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Equitus, abbot in Valeria : S01710 Laurence/Laurentius, deacon and martyr of Rome : S00037

Saint Name in Source

Equitius Laurentius

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 - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Destruction/desecration of saint's shrine

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracle after death Punishing miracle Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future) Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Foreigners (including Barbarians) Angels Soldiers Other lay individuals/ people


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.


Valeria is the modern day province of Rieti in central Italy. The attack of the Lombards which is described took place in 571.


Edition: Vogüé, A. de, Grégoire le Grand, Dialogues, Sources chrétiennes 260 (Paris: Cerf, 1979). 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. Müller, Barbara, "The diabolical power of lettuce, or garden miracles in Gregory the Great's Dialogues," Studies in Church History 41 (2005), 46-55. Vogüé, A. de, "Grégoire le Grand et ses Dialogues d’après deux ouvrages récents," Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique 83 (1988), 281–348.

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