University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E07736: An account of how an attempt by the dux Lupus to plunder the tomb of *Martialis (first bishop of Limoges, S01168) was miraculously punished, in 675/676. From a collection of the miracles of Martialis, written in Latin in Gaul, probably in the late 7th century.

online resource
posted on 2019-08-21, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Miracles of Saint Martialis (BHL 5562)

Quodam tempore, cum Ebroinus comes palatii, maior domus Francorum regni, in aula regis adesset et omnes nequitias seu iniquitates, quae in universa terra fiebant, superbos et iniquos homines super eorum facinus viriliter subpremebat, et pax per omnem terram plena et perhacta adrisit. Tunc surrexit puer unus nomine Lupus, qui et auctor nominis sui adesse voluit, ad Felicem, nobilissimum et inclitum patricium ex urbe Tholosanensium, qui et principatum super omnes civitates usque montes Pireneos, super gentem nequissimam Wascorum obtinebat. Eo defuncto antedictum Luponem principem super se omnes statuerunt, et omnes vagi profugique ad eum adeserunt, et tanta plurima ad eum assistebat, ut ei ex diaboli consensu elatio inreperet, ut regem Francorum debellaret et in sedem regiam se astare faceret, et cum universo agmine iter arriperet et illis in partibus festinanter incederet.

Advenit et pontificem ex ipsa urbe et omnes concives ad se adunare iussit, ut fidem eorum extorqueret et eos ad suum regimen perstringeret. Cum vero in cubiculum, ubi sanctus Marcialis sepultura meruit tumulari, fuisset ingressus, cepit perspicere eius sepulcrum. Quod cernens, vidit ibi lumbare aureum cum preciosis gemmis ornatum et eum exinde cogitavit auferre. Sed cum ingressus ad limen ostii ipsius speluncae esset, sic iubente Domino et intercedente beato Marciale, quidam homunculus ex ipsa civitate [cui] nomen Proculus arripuit gladium et eum in cerebrum eius defixit. Cumque sui sodales hinc et inde eum sustentare cepissent, de oleo beati viri, quod in lucerna accendebatur, in ipsa plaga iussit deferri. Sed eadem hora, multis cernentibus, flamma cum fumo de ipsa plaga exilivit, et tantus tremor ibidem advenit, ut vix aliquis ex ipsis concivibus noctem se speraret attingere. Sed nutu Dei et intercedente beato viro, hora nona diei ipsis pax et gaudium inenarrabile nutu a Dei advenit. Iam et palatio regis Francorum et omnes urbes et castella timor et tremor et murmur nimius ipsius invaserat, unde Domini misericordia, adiuvante et intercedente famulo Dei, beato viro sancto Marciale, pax restituta continuo omnibus fuit.

'In the time when Ebroin, Count of the Palace, Mayor of the Palace of the kingdom of the Franks, was in the court of the king, and manfully repressed all the crimes and iniquities which were committed in the whole land, [and] the proud and unjust men for their crimes, full and complete peace smiled upon the whole land. Then a young man arose by the name of Lupus, who wanted to be the author of his own reputation, to Felix, the most noble and celebrated patrician from the city of Toulouse, who also held leadership over all the cities as far as the mountains of the Pyrenees, over the worthless people of the Gascons. On his death, they all decided that the aforementioned Lupus should be leader over them, and all the wanderers and exiles came to him, and so much was there for him that with the urging of the devil, arrogance crept in, so that he waged war on the king of the Franks and placed himself in the royal seat, and went off with his whole army and swiftly marched with them into those parts.

He arrived, and ordered the bishop of this very city [Limoges] and all his fellow citizens to join him, so that he could extort their faith and attach them to his regime. When he entered the chamber where the holy Martialis had earned his burial, he began to examine his tomb. Looking at it, he saw there a gold cloth ornamented with precious gems, and thought to take it away with him. But when he stepped across the threshold of the crypt, a certain a certain humble man of the city named Proculus, by the order of the Lord and through the intercession of the blessed Martialis, snatched a sword and plunged it into his head. And when his men [coming forward] from here and there caught him to help him, he ordered some oil of the blessed man, which was burning in the lamp, to be brought to his wound. But the same hour, with many observing it, flame and smoke sprang from the wound itself and such an earth tremor took place there that hardly any of the citizens hoped to survive until the night. But by the will of God, and the intercession of the blessed man, at the ninth hour of the day inexpressible peace and joy arrived by the will of God. Already both in the palace of the king of the Franks, and all the cities, and fortresses, excessive fear and trembling and murmur had taken over, whence through the mercy of the Lord, with the servant of God, the blessed man saint Martialis, helping and interceding, lasting peace was restored to all.'

Text: Holder-Egger 1887, 281-282. Translation: David Lambert.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martialis, bishop of Limoges, ob. 3rd century : S01168

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)

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

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - crypt/ crypt with relics

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Punishing miracle Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Miraculous sound, smell, light Miraculous protection - of church and church property

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Soldiers Aristocrats

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Precious cloths


There are three early medieval collections of miracles of Martialis of Limoges. One (BHL 5561) survives in a number of manuscripts, usually as a postscript to the Life of Martialis. BHLms ( lists five manuscripts of this collection, dating from the 9th/10th to 13th centuries. The stories in this collection all consist of healings or other day-to-day miracles, and contain no information that allows them to be easily dated. They are not discussed here, but editions of the collection are listed below. A single manuscript, dating from the 10th century, contains not only BHL 5561 but two additional collections of miracles (Brussels, KBR, 8550-51 (3203), fol. 17v-24r; digitised: Unlike BHL 5561 many of these involve identifiable and datable individuals and events, ranging from the early 7th to late 9th centuries (Holder-Egger 1887, 280). The second collection (BHL 5562) begins with a preface relating how Martialis was sent to Limoges by St Peter (cf. the Life of Martialis, E07607), then relates five miracles ranging in time from the early 7th century to the 830s. The third collection (BHL 5564) contains miracles which took place after the translation of Martialis to a new shrine in 854. A partial edition of the second and third collections was produced by O. Holder-Egger for MGH in 1885 (he included only those items that he considered to be of historical interest). The second collection includes two miracles from before 700: the incident related in this entry, which took place in the mid 670s, and the miraculous healing of a son of Chlothar II, the Merovingian king in the early decades of the 7th century (E07621). While the collection in which they survive was compiled in the 9th century, all internal evidence suggests that these accounts were written soon after the events in question. In the present case, it is notable that the author speaks in very positive terms of the Mayor of the Palace Ebroin. Since Ebroin quickly acquired a villainous reputation after his death in 681 (primarily due to the rapid rise of the cult of *Leudegar of Autun, S02098), this is a strong indication that the text was written around the time of his death or very soon afterwards.


Lupus, or Lupo (both forms of the name are used in the text under discussion), was evidently a powerful figure in south-western Gaul in the 670s, probably dux of Aquitaine, though this is not explicitly attested. He appears in two sources apart from the Miracles of Martialis: the acts of a church council held at Bordeaux, in which he is referred to as a vir illustris and dux, who conducted the council on behalf of King Childeric II (MGH Concilia 1, 216); while Julian of Toledo's History of Wamba mentions him leading a Frankish incursion into the Gothic territory of Septimania (History of Wamba 27; MGH SS rer. Merov. 5, p. 523). The account of Lupus' status and actions in the Miracles of Martialis is obscure and confusing when read in isolation, but enough evidence can be pieced together from other sources to reconstruct the context of the miracle with surprising clarity (see chiefly Rouche 1979, 100-103). First of all, it is evident from the acts of the Council of Bordeaux that Lupus was a supporter of Childeric II, the Merovingian who ruled Austrasia from 662 to 675, and the whole of Francia from 673 to 675. In 675, Childeric was assassinated by a group of aristocrats, and following a period of confusion, a new king was established, Theuderic III, with power effectively in the hands of his Mayor of the Palace, Ebroin, a veteran political figure who had been Mayor of the Palace intermittently since the 650s, but had been deposed by Childeric II and confined to a monastery. Ebroin had numerous political rivals put to death, most notoriously Bishop Leudegar of Autun, whose killing quickly came to be regarded as a martyrdom (see E06462, E06463). Others fled to areas outside Ebroin's control, including Aquitaine: compare here the claim in the miracle narrative that 'all the wanderers and exiles' came to Lupus, with the statement in the continuation of the Chronicle of Fredegar that allies of Bishop Leudegar 'escaped by flight across the Loire into Gascony' (Chronicle of Fredegar Continuation 2; Wallace-Hadrill 1960, 82). This was the situation when Lupus seemingly invaded Ebroin's territory, as described in the miracle narrative, and thus came to occupy the city of Limoges. Given this context, it becomes apparent that the miracle story presented here is actually highly political. The support of the author for Ebroin is manifest from the first sentence, while Lupus is presented as an impious plunderer. Since we have no information about Lupus' death other than this miracle story it is impossible to be certain, but the question naturally arises as to whether the entire scenario in which Lupus is miraculously punished for attempting to plunder Martialis' tomb was invented to discredit him and justify a killing which may well have been no more than a routine political assassination.


Editions: All collections (BHL 5561, 5562, and 5564): Acta Sanctorum, Iun. V, 553-559. BHL 5561: Arbellot, F., Documents inédits sur l'apostolat de saint Martial et sur l'antiquité de les églises de France (Paris and Limoges, 1860), 38-43. Partial edition of BHL 5562 and 5564: Holder-Egger, O., Ex miraculis S. Martialis, in: Monumenta Germania Historica, Scriptores 15.1 (Hannover, 1887), 280-283. Further reading: Prévot, F., "Limoges," in N. Gauthier and J.-Ch. Picard (eds.), Topographie chrétienne des cités de la Gaule des origines au milieu du VIIIe siècle, vol. 6: Provinces ecclésiastique de Bourges (Aquitania Prima) (Paris, 1989), 67-77. Rouche, M., L'Aquitaine des Wisigoths aux Arabes, 418-781. Naissance d'une région (Paris, 1979). Wallace-Hadrill, J.M., The Fourth Book of the Chronicle of Fredegar (London, 1960).

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager