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E07752: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (4.5), describes how in 543 Clermont was protected from the plague by the prayers of *Gallus (bishop of Clermont, ob. 551, S00034); he mentions the Rogation processions led Gallus, which went to the church of *Julian (martyr of Brioude, S00035) at Brioude. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 575/594.

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posted on 2019-08-31, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 4.5

Huius tempore cum lues illa quam inguinariam vocant per diversas regiones desaeviret et maxime tunc Arelatensim provinciam depopularet, sanctus Gallus non tantum pro se quantum pro populo suo trepidus erat. Cumque die noctuque Dominum deprecaretur, ut vivens plebem suam vastari non cernerit, per visum noctis apparuit ei angelus Domini, qui tam caesariem quam vestem in similitudinem nivis candidam efferebat, et ait ad eum: 'Bene enim facis, o sacerdos, quod sic Dominum pro populo tuo supplicas. Exaudita est enim oratia tua, et ecce eris cum populo tuo ab hac infirmitate liberatus, nullusque te vivente in regione ista ab hac strage deperiet. Nunc autem ne timeas; post octo vero annos time'. Unde manifestum fuit, transactis his annis eum a saeculo discessisse. Expergefactus autem et Deo gratias pro hac consolatione agens, quod eum per caelestem nuntium confortare dignatus est, rogationes illas instituit, ut media quadragesima psallendo ad basilicam beati Iuliani martyris itinere pedestri venirent. Sunt autem in hoc itinere quasi stadia 360. Tunc etiam in subita contemplatione parietes vel domorum vel ecclesiarum signari videbantur, unde a rusticis hic scriptos Thau vocabatur. Cum autem regiones illas, ut diximus, lues illa consumeret, ad civitatem Arvernam, sancti Galli intercedente oratione, non attigit. Unde ego non parvam censeo gratiam, qui hoc meruit, ut pastor positus oves suas devorari defendente Domino non videret.

'In Saint Gallus' time the plague raged in various parts of Gaul, causing great swellings in the groin. It was particularly bad in the province of Arles, and Saint Gallus was anxious not only for himself but more especially for his flock. He prayed to God night and day that he might not live to see his diocese decimated. One night the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a vision, with his hair and raiment as white as driven snow. "You do well, Lord Bishop," said the Angel, "to pray to God in this way for your people. Your prayer has been heard. As long as you live, you and your flock will be free of the plague and no one in this region will die because of it. At the moment you have, then, no need to be afraid; but when eight years have passed the time will really come for fear." It was clear from this that Saint Gallus would die eight years later. He awoke and returned thanks to God for giving him this reassurance and for having deigned to comfort him by sending a message from on high. Saint Gallus then instituted the Rogations for which all journeyed on foot in the middle of Lent to the church of Saint Julian the martyr, singing psalms as they went. The church is about 360 stadia from Clermont. Suddenly before men’s very eyes signs appeared on the walls of houses and churches. The inscription was recognized by the country-folk who saw it as a tau. As I have explained, the plague raged through other parts of Gaul, but thanks to the prayers of Saint Gallus it claimed no victims in Clermont. In my opinion it was no small grace which was able to bring it to pass that the shepherd who stayed to watch did not see his sheep devoured, because God preserved them.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 138. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 199-200, lightly adapted.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Gallus, bishop of Clermont, ob. 551 : S00034 Julian, martyr of Brioude : S00035

Saint Name in Source

Gallus Iulianus

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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Procession

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future) Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Angels


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.


This story about Gallus of Clermont appears in almost identical terms as §6 of the Life of Gallus in Gregory's Life of the Fathers (E00039). The story of letters appearing on people's houses appears in Glory of the Martyrs 50, though it is only in the Histories that Gregory specifies that the letter was a Greek tau. Gregory does not mention here that Gallus was his uncle.


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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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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