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E07739: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (2.5), describes how *Aravatius/Servatius (bishop of Maastricht, mid-4th c., S01289), travelled to Rome to pray at the shrine of 'the Apostle', probably *Peter (the Apostle, S00036) or perhaps *Paul (the Apostle, S00008), that his see would be protected from the Huns. Instead he is told that he will die before the Huns' invasion takes place. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 575/594.

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posted on 2019-08-21, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 2.5


Hearing a rumour that the Huns were about to invade Gaul, Bishop Aravatius of Tongres prayed that God would prevent this. However, knowing how sinful the people were, he was afraid that God would not grant his prayer. He therefore travelled to Rome so that, with the support of apostolic power (apostolicae virtutis patrocinia) his prayers would deserve to be heard by God. He prayed and fasted at the tomb of the Apostle for many days. It is said (fertur) that he eventually received the response (responsum) that God had taken an irreversible decision that the Huns should invade and devastate Gaul. Aravatius should return home immediately and prepare his tomb, because God had decided that he would die before he could see the evils that the Huns would inflict on Gaul.

Aravatius returned to Tongres, and began preparing for his death as instructed. He said farewell to his clergy and to the people of the city, who wept and begged him not to leave them. Because they could not call him back with their tears, they received his blessing and returned home. He then travelled to Maastricht (Treiectensem urbem), where he fell ill with a fever and died. Gregory states that he was buried there in a tomb by the side of a road, where he remained until his body was reburied elsewhere, as Gregory tells in his book of miracles.

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 45-47. Summary: David Lambert.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Aravatius/Servatius, bishop of Maastricht, late 4th c. : S01289 Peter, the Apostle : S00036 Paul, the Apostle : S00008

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)


  • 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

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracles experienced by the saint Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


Gregory of Tours wrote the Histories (Historiae) during his episcopate in Tours (573–594). They constitute the longest and most detailed historical work of the post-Roman West. Gregory's focus is Gaul under its Frankish kings, above all the territories of Tours and (to a lesser extent) Clermont, where he had been born and brought up. Much of his work tells of the years when, as bishop of an important see, he was himself centrally involved in Frankish politics. The Histories are often wrongly referred to as a History of the Franks. Although the work does contain a history of the rulers of Francia, it also includes much hagiographical material, and Gregory himself gave it the simple title the 'ten books of Histories' (decem libri historiarum), when he produced a list of his own writings (Histories 10.31). The Histories consist of ten books whose scope and contents differ considerably. Book 1 skims rapidly through world history, with biblical and secular material from the Creation to the death in AD 397 of Martin of Tours (Gregory’s hero and predecessor as bishop). It covers 5596 years. In Book 2, which covers 114 years, the focus moves firmly into Gaul, covering the years up to the death of Clovis in 511. Books 3 and 4, which cover 37 and 27 years respectively, then move fairly swiftly on, closing with the death of king Sigibert in 575. With Book 5, through to the final Book 10, the pace slows markedly, and the detail swells, with only between two and four years covered in each of the last six books, breaking off in 591. These books are organised in annual form, based on the regnal years of Childebert II (r. 575-595/6). There continues to be much discussion over when precisely Gregory wrote specific parts of the Histories, though there is general agreement that none of it was written before 575 and, of course, none of it after Gregory's death, which is believed to have occurred in 594. Essentially, scholars are divided over whether Gregory wrote the Histories sequentially as the years from 575 unfolded, with little or no revision thereafter, or whether he composed the whole work over the space of a few years shortly before his death and after 585 (see Murray 2015 for the arguments on both sides). For an understanding of the political history of the time, and Gregory's attitude to it, precisely when the various books were written is of great importance; but for what he wrote about the saints, the precise date of composition is of little significance, because Gregory's attitude to saints, their relics and their miracles did not change significantly during his writing-life. We have therefore chosen to date Gregory's writing of our entries only within the broadest possible parameters: with a terminus post quem of 575 for the early books of the Histories, and thereafter the year of the events described, and a terminus ante quem of 594, set by Gregory's death. (Bryan Ward-Perkins, David Lambert) For general discussions of the Histories see: Goffart, W., The Narrators of Barbarian History (A.D. 550–800): Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Bede, and Paul the Deacon (Princeton, 1988), 119–127. Murray, A.C., "The Composition of the Histories of Gregory of Tours and Its Bearing on the Political Narrative," in: A.C. Murray (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden and Boston, 2015), 63–101. Pizarro, J.M., "Gregory of Tours and the Literary Imagination: Genre, Narrative Style, Sources, and Models in the Histories," in: Murray, A Companion to Gregory of Tours, 337–374.


Servatius, bishop of Tongeren (PCBE 4, 'Servatius'), is attested as attending church councils in the mid 4th century. Assuming that Gregory's 'Aravatius' is the same person (the general view, including PCBE), then he has misplaced Servatius chronologically by about a hundred years, making him a contemporary of the invasion of Gaul by the Huns in 451. The account of Aravatius' tomb and reburial mentioned by Gregory is Glory of the Confessors 71 (E02688). Gregory does not name the Apostle at whose tomb Aravatius prayed in Rome, or give any other information to indicate whether it was Peter or Paul. However, Peter is more likely, since he features more prominently in Gregory's work than Paul.


Edition: Krusch, B., and Levison, W., Gregorii episcopi Turonensis Libri historiarum X (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum I.1; 2nd ed.; Hannover, 1951). Translation: Thorpe, L., Gregory of Tours, The History of the Franks (Penguin Classics; London, 1974). Further reading: Murray, A.C., "The Composition of the Histories of Gregory of Tours and Its Bearing on the Political Narrative", in: A.C. Murray (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden-Boston 2015), 63-101. Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., Les monuments religieux de la Gaule d'après les œuvres de Grégoire de Tours (Paris, 1976).

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