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E07767: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (6.8), gives an account of the life of *Eparchius (hermit of Angoulême, western Gaul, ob. 581, S01310), mentioning his many miracles, including saving a man from being hanged. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 584/594.

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posted on 2019-09-05, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 6.8


Gregory mentions the death in 581 of Eparchius, recluse (reclausus) of Angoulême, stating that he was a man of great sanctity through whom God performed many miracles. He briefly describes how Eparchius came from Périgueux, but settled as a hermit near Angoulême and founded a small monastic community. He performed healing miracles and exorcisms during his lifetime, and often used his eloquence to persuade judges to pardon prisoners. Once, however, a crowd of local people was so angry at a criminal about to be hanged that they deterred the count from pardoning him. Eparchius then prayed for the man to be saved. When he was hanged the gallows collapsed while the man was still alive, and he was brought by one of Eparchius' monks to the monastery. Eparchius then summoned the count and told him how God had saved the man. Gregory states that this story was told to him by the count himself. The passage ends with an account of Eparchius' death and burial.

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 277-278.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Eparchius, hermit of Angoulême (western Gaul), ob. AD 581 : S01310

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 - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Ceremonies at burial of a saint

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Healing diseases and disabilities Exorcism Freeing prisoners, exiles, captives, slaves Juridical interventions

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves)


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.


Gregory also writes about Eparchius in Glory of the Confessors 99 (E02761), though – contrary to his usual practice – he does not mention this in the Histories passage about Eparchius. His account of Eparchius in the Histories focusses entirely on his life, and does not mention his tomb or posthumous miracles, which are highlighted in the Glory of the Confessors. Both works contain the story of the miraculous saving of a man from hanging, but the two versions differ quite considerably in points of detail: most obviously the Histories version portrays the event as taking place in Eparchius' lifetime and the initiative as being entirely his, with the prisoner merely the passive beneficiary of his power, while in Glory of the Confessors it is portrayed as taking place after Eparchius' death, when the man about to hanged invokes his name.


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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