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E04487: Gregory of Tours, in his Miracles of Martin (4.31), recounts how *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) made a spring flow at Nieul-lès-Saintes, near Saintes (western Gaul); AD 591. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 591/594.

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posted on 2017-12-19, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Miracles of Martin (Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi) 4.31

Exinde egressi, Sanctonicum terreturium ingressi sumus. Cumque in quodam convivio de beati Martini virtutibus fabularemur, haec mihi unus e civibus, adfirmantibus aliis vera esse, fideliter retulit. Naiogialo villa est in hoc terreturio sita, ad quam cum sanctus Martinus adhuc superstes in corpore adiret, obvium habuit virum exhibentem
aquam cum vasculo. Erat enim puteus ille, de quo haec exhibebat, situs in valle quasi mille passus a villa, ex eo incolae haustam deferebant aquam. Tunc ait vir Dei homini aquam ferenti: 'Quaeso, dilectissime, contene manum tuam et huic asello, quem sedeo, paululum aquae ad bibendura indulge'. Qui ait: 'Si necessarium ducis animal tuum adaquare, accede ad puteum et hauriens dabis ei. Nam ego quod cum labore detuli non praebebo'. Et haec dicens, praeteriit.

Quo discedente, veniens mulier et ipsa deferens aquam in ulnam; dixit ei similiter vir Dei. Quae acsi Rebecca condam audiens nuntium Dei: 'Et tibi praebeo', ait, 'et asino tuo potum, nec mihi labor est, ut iterum hauriam. Tantum voluntas tua fiat, qui iter pergens necessitatem pateris'. Et posito vasculo, dedit asino illi bibere. Quae, iterum haustam aquam, impleto vasculo, revertebatur ad villam. Quam prosequens sanctus, ait: 'Reddam tibi pro mercede beneficium, quia adaquasti asinum meum'. Et, positis genibus in terra, oravit ad Dominum, ut loco illi fontis ostenderet venam. Ac statim consummata oratione, disrupta terra, fontem inmensum populis admirantibus patefecit. Qui usque hodie beneficium praebet hominibus conmanentibus in agro illo. In huius enim fontis ore est lapis in testimonium, qui vestigium retenet aselli illius, super quem sanctus sedit antistis.

'I left Poitiers and entered the territory of Saintes. While I was talking about the miracles of the blessed Martin during a banquet, one of the citizens piously told me this story, which the others agreed was true. In this territory there is the village of Nieul-lès-Saintes. Saint Martin, while still alive in body, came to this village and met a man who was carrying water in a jar. The well from which the man was bringing this water was located in a valley about a thousand paces from the village, from which the inhabitants carried the water the water they drew. Then the man of God said to the man who was carrying the water: 'Most beloved, I ask you, extend your hand and offer a little water for this donkey that I am sitting on to drink.' The man replied: 'If you think it necessary to fetch water for your donkey, go to the well and give it the water you draw. For I will not offer the water that I have laboriously carried.' After saying this, the man continued on.

As he left, a woman came who was also carrying water in her arms. The man of God made a similar request of her. Like Rebecca in the past this woman listened to the messenger of God and said: 'I will offer you and your donkey a drink, and it is no problem for me to draw water again. Only let your will be done, because you are a traveller suffering from thirst.' She put down her jar and offered a drink to his donkey. Then she drew water again, filled her jar, and returned to the village. The saint followed her and said: 'Let me repay you with a blessing, because you have fetched water for my donkey.' He bent his knees to the ground and prayed to the Lord that he expose a flowing spring in that spot. And as soon as he finished his prayer, the ground was split and revealed a large spring to the people who were watching in wonder. Still today this spring offers its blessing to the people who live in that region. At the mouth of this spring as confirmation there is a stone that preserves the hoofprint of the donkey upon which the holy bishop sat.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 207-208. Translation: Van Dam 1993, 297-298 (= de Nie 2015, 827-829).


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

Holy spring/well/river

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Oral transmission of saint-related stories

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Miracle after death Unspecified miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Other lay individuals/ people Women

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - other


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.


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.

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