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E07740: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (2.7), describes how *Anianus (bishop of Orléans, ob. 454, S01206), miraculously protected Orléans (north-west Gaul) from the Huns in 451. 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) 2.7

Attela vero Chunorum rex a Mittense urbe egrediens, cum multas Galliarum civitates oppraemeret, Aurilianis adgreditur eamque maximo arietum inpulsu nititur expugnare. Erat autem eo tempore beatissimus Annianus in supradicta urbe episcopus, vir eximiae prudentiae ac laudabilis sanctitatis, cuius virtutum gesta nobiscum fideliter retenentur. Cumque inclusi populi suo pontefice, quid agerent, adclamarent, ille confisus in Deo, monet omnes in oratione prosterni et cum lacrimis praesentem semper in necessitatibus Domini auxilium inplorare. Denique his ut praeciperat depraecantibus, ait sacerdus: 'Aspicite de muro civitatis, si Dei miseratio iam succurrat'. Suspicabatur enim per Domini misericordiam Aetium advenire, ad quem et Arelate abierat prius suspectus futuri. Aspicientes autem de muro, niminem viderunt. Et ille: 'Orate' inquid, 'fideliter; Dominus enim liberavit vos hodie!' Orantibus autem illis, ait: 'Aspicite iterum!'. Et cum aspexissent, niminem viderunt qui ferret auxilium. Ait eis tertio: 'Si fideliter petitis, Dominus velociter adest'. Ad ille cum fletu et heiulatu magno Domini misericordiam inplorabant. Exactam quoque orationem, tertio iuxta senis imperium aspicientes de muro, viderunt a longe quasi nebolam de terra consurgere. Quod renuntiantes, ait sacerdus: 'Domini auxilium est'.

'Attila the King of the Huns marched forward from Metz and ravaged a great number of other cities in Gaul. He came to Orléans and did all he could to capture it by launching a fierce assault with his battering-rams. At that time the Bishop of Orléans was the saintly Anianus, a man of great wisdom and admirable holiness, the story of whose miracles has been faithfully handed down to us. The besieged inhabitants begged their Bishop to tell them what to do. Putting his trust in God, he advised them to prostrate themselves in prayer and with tears to implore the help of the Lord, which is always present in time of need. As they carried out his orders and prayed to the Almighty the Bishop said: "Keep a watch from the city wall, to see if God in his pity is sending us help." His hope was that, through God’s compassion, Aetius might be advancing, for Anianus had gone to interview that leader in Arles when he foresaw what was going to happen. They watched out from the wall, but they saw no one. "Pray in all faith," said Anianus, "for this day the Lord will deliver you." They continued their prayers. "Look out a second time," said the Bishop. They peered out, but they saw no one bringing help. The Bishop said a third time: "If you continue to pray in faith, God will come quickly." With much weeping and lamentation, they begged for God’s succour. When their prayer was finished, they were ordered by the old man to look out a third time. Far away they saw what looked like a cloud of dust rising from the ground. This they reported to the Bishop. "It is the help sent by God," said he.'

Aetius and his allies arrive and drive away the Huns. Gregory remarks:

Itaque liberatam obtentu beati antestites civitatem, Attilanem fugant.

'The city having been saved by the prayers of its saintly Bishop, they put Attila to flight.'

After narrating an incident in which a man at Rome has a miraculous vision concerning Aetius (E02022), Gregory describes the defeat of the Huns at the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields, concluding:

Nam nullus ambigat, Chunorum exercitum obtentu memorati antestites fuisse fugatum. Verum Aetius patritius cum Thorismodo victuriam obtinuit ...

'No one has any doubt that the army of the Huns was routed by the prayers of the Bishop about whom I have told you; but it was the patrician Aetius, with the help of Thorismund, who gained the victory ...'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 48-50. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 116-118, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Anianus/Annianus, bishop of Orléans (northern Gaul), ob. AD 454 : S01206

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 - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miraculous interventions in war Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Soldiers Foreigners (including Barbarians) Crowds


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.


The belief that Anianus of Orléans (PCBE 4, 'Anianus 1') miraculously protected his city against assault by the Huns is attested from an early date: the earliest surviving reference appears in a letter written by Sidonius Apollinaris in the 470s (E07122), and the story forms the greater part of the extant Life of Anianus (BHL 473) which is generally dated to the late 5th or 6th century (E06258). It is clear that Gregory knew a written account of Anianus' acts from his statement that 'the story of [his] miracles has been faithfully handed down to us' (cuius virtutum gesta nobiscum fideliter retenentur). It is possible that this is the extant Life, but it may be an earlier version. Gregory's account of the Hunnic attack on Orléans and the role of Anianus is broadly the same as in the Life, but differs in a number of details – if it is his source, he has significantly altered and simplified it. The dramatic account by Gregory of three collective prayers, with Anianus telling the people twice to pray again before the third prayer is answered, does not match anything in the Life, which mentions that Anianus called on the people to pray, but does not otherwise agree with Gregory's detail. Gregory also differs from the Life in portraying Anianus' prayers as preserving Orléans completely intact from assault, while the Life depicts the Huns forcing their way into the city but then being driven out again (which seems to agree with the early testimony of Sidonius – see E07122).


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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