University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E05137: Gregory of Tours, in his Miracles of Julian (2), recounts how the head of *Julian (martyr of Brioude, S00035) and the body of *Ferreolus (soldier and martyr of Vienne, S01893) were found uncorrupted in the tomb of Ferreolus in Vienne (south-east Gaul), in 452/475, and quotes the inscription on the tomb. Written in Latin in Clermont and Tours (central and north-west Gaul), 570/587.

online resource
posted on 2018-02-27, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Miracles of Julian (Liber de passione et virtutibus sancti Iuliani martyris) 2

Once Gregory travelled to Vienne to pray at the tomb of Ferreolus. After his prayers, he noted some verses written on the platform (tribunal) of the tomb:

Heroas Christi geminos haec contenit aula:
lulianum capite, corpore Ferreolum.

'This shrine contains two warriors of Christ:
Julian and his head, and Ferreolus and his body.'

Gregory asked the warden of the shrine what they meant and he replied:

Basilica sancti martyris Ferreoli super ipsum Rhodani litus ab antiquis fuerat collocata. Denique cum, inpulsante violentia amnis, porticus, quae ab ea parte erat locata, corrueret, providens sacerdos Mamertus nomine, qui tunc Viennensim regebat eclesiam, ruinam futuram praeveniens, aliam basilicam eleganti opere et in ipsa mensura sagaci
intentione construxit, illuc sanctum martyris transferre cupiens corpus. Advenit autem ad hoc opus abbatum atque monachorum magnus numerus, vigilataque nocte, accepto sarculo fodere coeperunt. Cumque in profundo discenderent, tria sepulchra repperiunt, at confestim stupor mentes spectantium invadit. Nec quisquam erat certus, quisnam esset beati martyris tumulus. Igitur cum starent omnes in hebitate mentis attoniti, inspirante, ut credo, Divinitate, unus ex circumstantibus exclamat, dicens: 'Antiquitus referri solitum erat, et celebri per populos sermone vulgatum, caput Iuliani confessoris in sepulchro retenere martyris Ferreoli. Si, operturio amoto, unusquisque consideretur, potest, quae sint membra Ferreoli martyris, protenus inveniri'. Haec audiens sacerdos, cunctos iubet in oratione prosterni. Qua inpleta, procedit ad tumulos, detectosque duos, singulos in his quiescentes invenit viros. Cumque aperuisset et tertium, invenit in eo virum iacentem inlaeso corpore, integro vestimento, qui, deciso capite, caput amplexus aliud brachio retenebat. Erat enim acsi nuper sepultus neque pallore faciei demutatus neque capillorum decisione turpatus neque ulla putredine resolutes, sed ita integer, inlaesus, ut putares eum adhuc sopore corporeo detenere. Tunc antistis gaudio magno repletus, ait: 'Hoc esse cadaver Ferreoli, hoc esse caput Iuliani martyris, dubium non habetur'. Tunc cum magno psallentio, plaudente populo, in loco ubi nunc adoratur, Domino annuente, perducitur'.

'Long ago men founded the church of the martyr Saint Ferreolus next to the bank of the river Rhône. But because of the strong pressure of the river the colonnade on that side [of the church] collapsed. The bishop then serving the cathedral at Vienne was named Mamertus. He foresaw the ruin [of the rest of the church]. So with keen attention to its design he constructed another church of elegant workmanship to which he wished to transfer the holy body of the martyr [Ferreolus]. A large crowd of abbots and monks assembled for this task, and after keeping a night vigil, they took a hoe and began to dig. Once they dug down deep, they found three tombs; immediately the thoughts of the onlookers were bewildered. For no one was certain which was the tomb of the blessed martyr. While everyone was standing around in confusion because of their ignorance, one of the bystanders (at the inspiration of God, I believe) shouted out and said: 'Ancient tradition has customarily claimed that the head of the confessor Julian was buried in the tomb of the martyr Ferreolus; and frequent repetition has publicized this tradition among the people. If each tomb is investigated by removing its lid, it is possible to discover immediately which are the limbs of the martyr Ferreolus.’ The bishop listened to this advice and ordered everyone to kneel in prayer. After prayer he went to the tombs, uncovered two, but found in them single men at rest. But when he opened the third tomb, he found in it the body of a man at rest that was uncorrupted and in intact clothing; the man’s head had been cut off, and he held another head embraced in his arm. The man looked as if he had been recently buried. His face was neither disfigured by any paleness nor deformed by the thinning of his hair nor decayed by any putrefaction; instead he was so fresh and so untouched that you might think he was still preserved in a sleeping body. Then the bishop was overwhelmed with great joy and said: 'There is no doubt that this is the body of Ferreolus and this is the head of the martyr Julian.' Then the people applauded and loudly chanted Psalms. With the approval of the Lord [the tomb] was brought to this place where it is now venerated.'

At the end of this chapter Gregory adds that Sidonius Apollinaris also gave evidence of this translation in his letter to Mamertus and quotes from his letter ($E06742).

Text: Krusch 1969, 114-115. Translation: Van Dam 1993, 165-166; lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

Saint Name in Source

Iulianus Ferreolus

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


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Bodily incorruptibility

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Other lay individuals/ people Ecclesiastics - abbots Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - head Bodily relic - entire body Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Discovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects



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.


Mamertus was bishop of Vienne between AD 452 and 475, so the discovery of the tomb of the martyrs reportedly occurred in that time. The location within Vienne of the church Mamertus dedicated is uncertain (Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1976, 339-340). The account of the discovery of the martyrs' tomb cited in this chapter is from Letter 7.1 of Sidonius Apollinaris (see E06742). Gregory visited Vienne sometime between 553 and 573, when Nicetius was bishop of Lyon.


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. Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., Les monuments religieux de la Gaule d’après les oeuvres de Grégoire de Tours (Paris, 1976).

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager