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E04433: Gregory the Great, in his Dialogues (1.7), describes three miracles effected by *Nonnosus (prior of Mount Soracte, ob. c. 570, S01713) on Mount Soracte, near Rome. These were conducted in imitation of *Gregory (the Miracle Worker, S00687), *Donatus (bishop of Arezzo, S01527) and *Elisha (Old Testament Prophet, S00239). 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 1.7


In his mountain monastery, Nonnosus found a small patch of level ground suitable for a garden. This ground was covered by a large stone, too great to move. Nonnosus prayed that the stone might be moved, and when he returned the next day, the rock was removed.

Another time, Nonnosus smashed a glass lamp whilst washing it. He swept the fragments before the altar and prayed. The glass lamp was miraculously repaired.

Gregory states that in these miracles, Nonnosus imitated Gregory the Miracle Worker and Donatus.

When the oil supply at the monastery ran out, to avoid the monks having to work for oil, Nonnosus placed a few olives in the press. The small amount of oil they yielded was spread between many jars. The next day they were full of oil. In this, Nonnusus imitated the Old Testament prophet Elisha.

Summary: Frances Trzeciak.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Nonnosus, monk : S01713 Gregory the Miracle-Worker (Taumatourgos), bishop and missionary in Pontus, ob. c. 270 : S00687 Donatus, martyr of Arezzo : S01527 Elisha, Old Testament prophet : S00239

Saint Name in Source

Nonnosus Gregorius Donatus Elisa

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 - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money) Power over objects

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Ecclesiastics - abbots


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.


For an account of Elisha's miracle, see 4 Kings 4.1-7. Gregory describes how Nonnosus was a student of Anastasius (6th c. abbot of Suppentonia, S01714). He also discusses Anastasius in Dialogues 1.8 (E04436). Nonnosus' miracles echo others described in the Dialogues. For example, compare the miraculous supply of oil with a similar miracle, also described by Gregory, in which *Boniface (bishop of Ferentino, S01715) produced plentiful wine from a poor harvest of grapes (Dialogues 1.9, E04437). In both cases, a small amount of liquid was placed in a vessel and left, and after a few days the vessels were filled to the brim. Similarly, his removal of the rock from the garden ought to be understood in the context of other ‘garden’ miracles throughout the Dialogues, and discussed by Barbara Müller (2005). These stories work on multiple levels. The role of the gardener mirrors the ideal role of the ideal church leader keeping watch over his flock and fighting threats from the Devil. Yet these scenes should also, in Müller’s view, be understood in the context of a world where garden work was a fact of daily life.


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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