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E07766: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (5.49), describes how during Gregory's trial in 580 for slandering Queen Fredegund, a man named Modestus, who had been imprisoned after criticising Gregory's accusers, was miraculously freed through the intervention of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) and *Medard (bishop of Noyon, buried at Soissons, ob. 557/558, S00168), and joined Gregory at vigils in Medard's church at Soissons. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 580/594.

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posted on 2019-09-05, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 5.49

Igitur rex, arcessitis regni sui episcopis, causam diligenter iussit exquiri. Cumque Riculfus clericus saepius discuteretur occulte et contra me vel meos multas fallacias promulgaret, Modestus quidam faber lignarius ait ad eum: 'O infelix, qui contra episcopum tuum tam contumaciter ista meditaris! Satius tibi erat silere, et, petita venia episcopi, gratiam inpetraris'. Ad haec ille clamare coepit voce magna ac dicere: 'En ipse, qui mihi silentium indicit, ne prosequar veritatem! En reginae inimicum, qui causam criminis eius non sinet inquiri!' Nuntiantur protinus haec reginae. Adprehenditur Modestus, torquetur, flagellatur, et in vincla compactus, custodiae deputatur. Cumque inter duos custodes catenis et cippo teneretur vinctus, media nocte, dormientibus custodibus, orationem fudit ad Dominum, ut dignaretur eius potentia miserum visitare, et qui innocens conligatus fuerat, visitatione Martini praesulis ac Medardi absolveretur. Mox, disruptis vinculis, confracto cippo, reserato ostio, sancti Medardi basilicam, nocte nobis vigilantibus, introiit.

'The King now convened a council of all the bishops of his kingdom and ordered the affair to be investigated thoroughly. The cleric Riculf was several times interrogated in secret and he told many lies about me and mine. Modestus, a carpenter, said to him: "What a wretched creature you are, to conspire and plot against your own Bishop in this contumacious way! You would do better to keep your mouth shut, to ask your Bishop’s pardon and so once more to obtain his grace." In reply Riculf began to shout: "This fellow tells me to keep my mouth shut, instead of revealing the truth! He is an enemy of the Queen, for he wants to prevent us from investigating the charge brought against her." This event was immediately reported to Queen Fredegund. Modestus was arrested, put to the torture, beaten, loaded with chains and locked up in prison. As he sat there in his chains, between two guards and fastened to the block, midnight arrived and his guards nodded off to sleep. Modestus prayed to the Lord that in His omnipotence He would deign to visit a poor wretch who was tied up without having deserved it, and arrange for him to be freed through the intervention of Saint Martin the Bishop and Saint Medard. Thereupon the chains broke asunder, the block split open, the prison-door was unlocked and Modestus marched out and into the church of Saint Medard, where I myself was that night keeping vigils.

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 260. Translation: Thorpe 1974, lightly adapted.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397 : S00050 Medard, bishop of Noyon buried at Soissons (Gaul), ob. 557/558 : S00168

Saint Name in Source

Martinus Medardus

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 after death Freeing prisoners, exiles, captives, slaves

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives



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.


According to Gregory's account in Histories 5.49, Leudast, following his removal as comes civitatis at Tours, attempted to gain revenge on Gregory by accusing him before King Chilperic of having alleged that Chilperic's wife Fredegund was having an affair with Bishop Bertram of Bordeaux. Leudast was assisted by two clerics from Tours, a priest and a subdeacon, both called Riculf. Gregory was investigated, and eventually acquitted, by an assembly of bishops convened by Chilperic at the royal villa at Berny-Rivière near Soissons in 580. Modestus' imprisonment must have been in Soissons itself, where the church of St Medard was located (Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1976, 289).


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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