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E05131: Gregory of Tours, in his Miracles of Julian (1), gives an account of the martyrdom of *Julian (martyr of Brioude, S00035), in Brioude (central Gaul). Written in Latin in Clermont and Tours (central and north-west Gaul), 570/587.

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posted on 2018-02-25, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Miracles of Julian (Liber de passione et virtutibus sancti Iuliani martyris) 1

At the beginning of the book Gregory recalls some biblical figures who each 'loved righteousness with his whole heart'. He lists Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, the three youths in the Fiery Furnace, and Daniel. The apostles and martyrs also 'travelled on the path of righteousness', and Julian of Brioude was among them. Gregory then presents his martyrdom:

Sic et inclitus martyr Iulianus, qui Viennensi ortus urbe Arvernus datus est martyr, ab hoc igne succensus, haec concupivit ac mente tota desideravit. Quia cum esset apud beatissimum Ferreolum, iam tunc martyrii odore flagrabat. Qui, relictis divitiis ac propinquis, tantum ob solius amorem martyrii Arvernus advenit. Sed nec hoc sine divino mandato peregit, cum tunc persecutio in Viennensi urbe ferveret. Legerat enim, Dominum praedixisse: Si vos persecuti fuerint in istam civitatem, fugite in aliam. Contulit ergo se hic in Arverno territurio non metu mortis, sed ut relinquens propria facilius perveniret ad palmam; metuebat enim, ne ei parentes essent obvii, si inter eos hoc certamen inisset; et perderet miles Christi coronam gloriae, si legitime non certasset. Igitur instante persecutione ad Brivatinsime vicum, in quo fanatici erroris neniae colebantur, advenit. Et cum insequi adversarios nutu Dei sensisset, a vidua quadam se occultari deprecatur. Quem illa tegens, ilico, martyre poscente, detexit; qui suis insecutoribus ita infit: 'Nolo', inquit, 'diutius commorari in hoc saeculo, quia sitio tota animi aviditate iam Christum'. At illi eductam vibranti dextera frameam, deciso capite, in tribus, ut ita dicam, partibus gloriosus dividitur martyr. Nam caput Viennae defertur, artus Brivate reconduntur; felix anima Christo conditore suscipitur. Senes quoque, qui sacrosanctum corpus mancipaverant sepulturae, ita redintegrati sunt, ut in senectute summa positi tamquam iuvenes haberentur. Caput quoque eius Ferreolus martyr accepit, conpletoque certamine, tam illius membra quam istius caput in unius tumuli receptaculo collocantur. Quod ne cuiquam fortassis videatur incredibilis esse narratio, quae audivi gesta fideliter prodam.

'So also the illustrious martyr Julian, who was born at Vienne and given to Clermont as a martyr, was ignited by this fire and wished for and desired these [goals] in all his plans. Even when he was with the most blessed Ferreolus, already then he burned with the fragrance of martyrdom. After he abandoned his wealth and his relatives, he came to Clermont simply because of so great a desire for martyrdom. But he did not undertake this without a divine command, since a persecution was then raging in Vienne. For he had read that the Lord had proclaimed: 'If you are persecuted in that city, flee to another' [Matt. 10:23]. Therefore he came here to the territory of Clermont not because he feared death but so that by leaving his own possessions he might achieve his prize more easily. For he was afraid that his relatives might oppose him if he initiated this struggle in their presence, and that he, a soldier of Christ, might forfeit the crown of glory if he did not struggle correctly. While this persecution was raging he came to the village of Brioude, in which the incantations of that mad error [of paganism] were practised. When by the will of God he learned that his enemies were in pursuit, he asked a certain widow to hide him. She [first] concealed him; [then,] at the martyr’s request she immediately exposed [him]. He spoke in this manner to his pursuers: 'I do not wish,' he said, 'to remain any longer in this world, because with all the longing of my spirit I already thirst for Christ.' They drew their swords, brandished them in their right hands, and cut off his head; the glorious martyr was then, if I may say so, divided into three parts. For his head was brought to Vienne, his body was buried at Brioude, but his blessed soul was received by Christ his maker. The old men who delivered his sacred body to the tomb were so rejuvenated that [even though] they were very elderly, they were thought of as young men. The martyr Ferreolus acquired his head; after he completed [his own] struggle, his body as well as this head were placed in one tomb. Lest perhaps this account seem unbelievable to anyone, let me carefully relate the events that I have heard.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 113-114. Translation: Van Dam 1993, 163-165; lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Ferreolus, martyr of Vienne (eastern Gaul), ob. AD 303/304 : S01893 Julian, martyr of Brioude : S00035

Saint Name in Source

Ferreolus Iulianus

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 Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Tours Clermont

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Tours Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré Clermont Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory of Tours

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of an individual

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Women Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - head Bodily relic - other body parts Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Division of relics


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. The Miracles of Julian, full title Martyrdom and Miracles of the Martyr Saint Julian (Liber de passione et virtutibus sancti Iuliani martyris), consists of 50 chapters. It opens with a brief account of Julian's martyrdom and of the discovery of his head in Vienne (chapters 1 and 2), followed by 48 chapters of miracles effected by the saint, primarily at his tomb in Brioude (south of Clermont, central Gaul), but also through relics distributed in other areas of Gaul (and in one case, chapter 33, even in an unnamed 'city of the East'). Brioude and the shrine of Julian are within the ancient territory of Clermont, Gregory's native city, and the attachment that he and his wider family felt towards Julian is manifest in a number of stories in the Miracles, including evidence that Gregory often attended the feast of the saint on 28 August. In chapter 50 Gregory addresses Julian as his patron and asks for his support through the remainder of his life. Gregory wrote the Miracles of Julian over an extended period, very possibly starting before he became bishop of Tours in 573. Statements he makes in chapters 32 and 34 suggest that he initially planned to draw the book to a close with less chapters than the fifty we have, and that this was soon after his consecration to Tours; but, learning later of more miracles (primarily from Aredius of Limoges, chapters 41-45) and himself witnessing a further miracle (chapter 46a), he extended the book to 50 chapters, completing these in the early or mid 580s. Chapter 50 addresses the reader in a valedictory tone, with a personal invocation of Julian; but it is possible that the work was never published in Gregory's lifetime. For discussion of the work, see: Krusch B., Gregorii Turonensis Gregorii episcopi Turonensis Miracula et opera minora (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum I.2; 2nd ed.; Hannover, 1969), 2. Monod G., Études critiques sur les sources de l’histoire mérovingienne, 1e partie (Paris, 1872), 42–45. Van Dam, R., Saints and their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, 1993), 162-163. 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.


The opening sentence is found only in the ninth-century manuscript, but it is considered genuine (Van Dam, p. 163, n. 4).


Edition: Krusch B., Gregorii episcopi Turonensis Miracula et opera minora (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum I.2; 2nd ed.; Hannover 1969), 112–134. Translation: de Nie. G., Lives and Miracles: Gregory of Tours (Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 39; Cambridge MA, 2015). Van Dam, R., Saints and their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, 1993), 200–303. Further reading: Murray A.C. (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden and 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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