University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E04465: Gregory of Tours, in his Miracles of Martin (4.29), recounts how a merchant from Trier told Agnes, abbess of Poitiers, about his miraculous journey from Metz to Trier (both north-east Gaul) along the Moselle River with the help of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050); AD 570/589. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 591/594.

online resource
posted on 2017-12-14, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Miracles of Martin (Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi) 4.29

Agnes, the abbess of the nuns at Poitiers, told Gregory about a miracle that was told to her by a merchant from Trier, while she was in Metz. The story, though opening in the third person, rapidly switches to the first person, as though told by the merchant himself.

Dicit mihi, si aliquando ad basilicam beati Martini Turonus occurrissem. Dixi, quod, quomodo in Austria ambularem, sic ibi me praesentassem. Dicit mihi, quale beneficium domni Martini senserat. Dum Mettis salem negotiasset et ad pontem Mettis adplicuisset, dicit: 'Domne Martine, me et puricellos quos habeo et navicellam meam tibi conmendo'.

Inter hoc recubantes in nave, omnes condormivimus. Mane excitans me cum puricellis quos mecum habebam, invenimus nos ante portam Trevericam, nescientes, quomodo venissemus, qui nos adhuc Mettis credebamus consistere; qua ratione aut navigatum est aut volatum; sola conmendatione beati Martini nec fluvium sensimus et Mosellae tumescentes undas naufragas evitamus, et, quod satis est, inter saxa nocturno tempore praeterimus incolomes, non nauta vigile, non vento flante, non remo ducente'.

'He asked me if I had ever gone to the church of the blessed Martin at Tours. I said that I visited there whenever I was traveling in Austrasia. He told me about the great blessing he had experienced from lord Martin. While he was trading salt at Metz and was docked at the bridge at Metz, he said: ‘Lord Martin, I commend to you myself, the young servants that I have, and my small boat.’

Then I and my servants lay down in the boat and all fell asleep. In the morning when I and my servants awoke, we found ourselves in front of the gate of Trier. Since we thought that we were still tied up at Metz, we did not know how we had arrived, whether we had sailed there or flown. Simply through the commendation of the blessed Martin we did not feel the river, and we avoided the swelling waves of the Moselle River that cause wrecks; it is truly [amazing] that we safely passed by the rocks during the night even though no boatman was on watch, no wind was blowing, and no oar was steering.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 206. Translation: Van Dam 1993, 296, lightly modified (de Nie 2015, 821-823).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours, 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 - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Oral transmission of saint-related stories

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Merchants and artisans Slaves/ servants


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.


Agnes, the abbess in Poitiers, died between 587 and 589, but Gregory recounts the miracle she was told among the stories that occurred in AD 591. Various explanations have been suggested to explain this anomaly (Van Dam 1993, 296-297, n. 108).


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