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E05142: Gregory of Tours, in his Miracles of Julian (4), how a woman successfully obtained the release of her husband, under sentence of death from the emperor in Trier, by praying at the tomb of *Julian (martyr of Brioude, S00035) in Brioude (central Gaul) and vowing to cover his tomb if her husband was saved; and how she fulfilled her vow. Written in Latin in Clermont and Tours (central and north-west Gaul), 570/587.

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posted on 2018-02-28, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Miracles of Julian (Liber de passione et virtutibus sancti Iuliani martyris) 4

At the beginning of this chapter Gregory tells that, after news spreads of the old men who were restored to their former strength when they committed Julian’s body to burial (chapter 1, see E05131), many people obtained Julian's assistance. Then he describes the story of the woman whose husband was imprisoned:

Vinctus ab Hispaniis et carceri deditus, apud imperatorem Trevericum capitali diiudicatus sententia tenebatur. Quod coniux illius cognitum, dum tumulare viri membra festinat, ad Brivatinsim vicum pervenit, repertosque viros, dum diversa studio intento rimaretur, cognoscit, quid in eo loco vel de martyre vel de senibus fuerit gestum; fidelique insinuatione credens, ad sepulchrum beati martyris deliberat properare, ut causas suggerat, casus reseret vel cunctum laborem sui doloris exponat, adserentibus tum praeterea hominibus: 'Absque dubio pollicemur, domina, tibi a martyre reddi laetitiam, qui senum quondam decrepitae aetatis membra rigentia antiquo vigore restituit'. Impletaque haec oratione, promittit, ut, si sospitem reciperet coniugem, martyris sepulchrum, in quo possit spatio, cimento contegerit. Fide plena et de martyris pietate secura Treverus est ingressa, inventumque virum gratia imperiali receptum, laeta regreditur; inquisitumque tempus, quo vir relaxatus esset e carcere, haec fuit absolutionis hora, qua illa martyris est auxilium inprecata; dehinc pollicitationem quam promiserat cum inmensis muneribus adimplevit.

'A man was [brought] fettered from Spain, thrown into a prison, judged at the court of the emperor at Trier and sentenced to death. His wife learned of his fate. While she was hurrying to bury her husband's body, she came to the village of Brioude. There she found some men, and after eagerly and earnestly asking various questions, she learned what had happened to the martyr and to the old men at that spot. She believed that this was a reliable recommendation and decided to hurry to the tomb of the blessed martyr so that she might present her case, reveal her misfortune, and expose all the suffering of her grief. For the men had in addition made this claim: 'Mistress, we promise for certain that you will be made happy again by the martyr who once restored to their former vigor the limbs of old men that had stiffened from the decay of age.' After praying she vowed that if she received her husband back alive, she would cover the martyr’s tomb with a solid structure, as large as possible. She was full of confidence and trusted the goodwill of the martyr when she arrived at Trier, where she found her husband and as a favor from the emperor received him back; she left in happiness. Inquiry was made about the time when her husband had been released from prison; the moment of his acquittal turned out to have been that hour when she requested the martyr’s assistance. Then with lavish gifts she fulfilled the vow she had promised.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 116. Translation: Van Dam 1993, 166-167; lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Julian, martyr of Brioude : S00035

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles



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

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Freeing prisoners, exiles, captives, slaves

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people Prisoners Women Monarchs and their family


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 miracle described by Gregory in this chapter must have occurred between AD 383 and AD 388 while Magnus Maximus was the West Roman Emperor (Van Dam 1993, 167, n. 7). For a detailed description of the church of Julian at Brioude see Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1976, 65-70.


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).

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