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E04438: Gregory the Great, in his Dialogues (1.10), narrates miraculous stories based in Todi (central Italy) featuring *Fortunatus (bishop of Todi, ob. c. 537, S01716). These describe Fortunatus driving out evil spirits, and four other miracles. On one occasion, the sight of relics of *Sebastianus (martyr of Rome, S00400) caused a sinful woman to be possessed by a demon. Another time, a sinful Goth broke a rib as he passed by the church of *Peter (the Apostle, S00036); he was later cured by Fortunatus. Written in Latin in Rome, c. 593.

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posted on 2017-12-07, 00:00 authored by frances
Gregory the Great, Dialogues 1.10

Gregory relates how Fortunatus was especially effective at driving away evil spirits.

Qui in exfugandis spiritibus inmensae uirtutis gratia pollebat, ita ut nonnumquam ab obsessis corporibus legiones daemonum pelleret, et continuae orationis studio intentus obiectas contra se eorum multitudines superaret.

‘He possessed extraordinary power over evil spirits, for on occasions he would expel legions of them, and, when they turned their violence against him personally, he would crush them with the weapon of incessant prayer.’

On one occasion, Fortunatus drove out the spirits which plagued a woman who had sex before attending the dedication of the church of St Sebastianus. A noblewoman from Tuscany and her daughter-in-law were due to attend this ceremony. The night before the dedication, the young woman slept with her husband. As soon as the relics of Sebastian were brought out, a spirit possessed the woman. When a priest threw the linen cloth from the altar on her to cover her, he was attacked by the same spirit. Only Fortunatus was able to drive out the spirit by spending many days and nights in prayer. He also drove a spirit out of a possessed man, which later inflicted itself on a family in Todi.

Fortunatus cured a blind man by making a sign of the cross in front of his eyes. Later, he cured a mad horse when he made a sign of the cross over its head.

When Goths carried off two small boys from an estate on the outskirts of Ravenna, Fortunatus repeatedly asked them to return the boys unharmed. When leaving Todi, the leader of the Goths passed in front of the church of St Peter. His horse slipped and fell and he suffered a broken rib. After the leader of the Goths sent the boys safely to Fortunatus, one of his deacons sprinkled the rib with holy water, healing it.

Fortunatus was called to revive a dead man called Marcellus. Before dawn on Easter Sunday, Fortunatus went to see the corpse with two deacons. When he called to the corpse, the man came back to life.

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


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Fortunatus, bishop of Todi : S01716 Sebastianus, martyr of Rome : S00400 Peter the Apostle : S00036

Saint Name in Source

Fortunatus Sebastianus Petrus

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

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miraculous power through intermediary Healing diseases and disabilities Power over life and death Exorcism Freeing prisoners, exiles, captives, slaves Miracle with animals and plants

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Foreigners (including Barbarians) Soldiers Other lay individuals/ people Children Animals Demons

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic


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.


Marcellus, the man brought back to life, described how he was led to heaven, and recalled because Fortunatus revived his body. Compare this scene with the one given in E04440 (Dialogues 1.12) in which *Severus, a priest of Antodoco (S01718), brought a man back from the dead. One was brought back from heaven, and one from hell, but both are described as being led away by men or demons shortly after their death, and both were later recalled by a messenger.


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. 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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