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E07780: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (8.5), describes how during King Guntram's visit to Orléans (north-west Gaul) in July 585, the king told him of a vision, in which Guntram had seen *Tetricus (bishop of Langres, ob. 568/573, S00044), *Nicetius (bishop of Lyon, ob. 573, S00049) and *Agricola (bishop of Chalon-sur-Saône, ob. 580, S02830), deciding whether his brother, the recently dead King Chilperic, should be spared or condemned. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 586/594.

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posted on 2019-09-10, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 8.5

Me haec narrante, rex ait: ' Vidi et ego aliam visionem, quae huius interitum nuntiavit. Adducebatur enim in conspectu meo a tribus episcopis vinctus catenis, quorum unus Tetricus, alius Agroecula, tertius vero Nicetius Lugduninsis erat. E quibus dicebant duo: "Solvite, quaesumus, eum et castigatum abire permittite". Quibus e contrario cum amaritudine Tetricus episcopus respondebat: "Non fiet ita, sed igni concremabitur pro sceleribus suis". Et cum diu multumque quasi altercantes haec inter se verba proferrent, conspicio eminus aeneum super ignem positum fervere vehementer. Tunc me flente, adpraehensum infilicem Chilpericum, confractis membris, proiciunt in aeneum. Nec mora, inter undarum vapores ita dissolutus ac liquefactus est, ut nullum ex eo paenitus indicium remaneret'. Haec rege dicente, admirantibus nobis, epulo expleto, surreximus.

'That is what I said, and the King answered: "I, too, saw a vision in which Chilperic’s death was announced. Three bishops led him into my presence and he was bound with chains: the first was Tetricus, the second Agricola and the third Nicetius of Lyons. Two of them said: 'Undo his fetters, we beseech you, give him a good beating and let him go.' Bishop Tetricus, on the contrary, opposed them with great bitterness. 'That is not what you must do!' he said, 'For his sins this man must be cast into the flames.' They went on arguing among themselves like this for a long time, and then far off I perceived a cauldron which was boiling fiercely, for there was a fire lighted beneath it. Poor Chilperic was seized: they broke his limbs and they threw him into the cauldron. I wept to see what happened. He was dissolved away and quite melted in the steaming water, and soon no trace at all of him remained." As the King said all this to our great astonishment, the meal came to an end and we rose from our seats.

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 374. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 437.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Nicetius, bishop of Lyon, ob. 573 : S00049 Tetricus, bishop of Langres, ob. 568/573 : S00044 Agricola, bishop of Chalon-sur-Saône, ob. 580 : S02830

Saint Name in Source

Nicetius Tetricus Agroecula

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 - Miracles

Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Punishing miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Monarchs and their family


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 incident is depicted as taking place while Guntram was having dinner with a number of bishops, including Gregory, during his visit to Orléans in July 585, a few months after the assassination of Chilperic in September 584. Guntram accused the absent Theodore, bishop of Marseille, of being involved in Chilperic's assassination, and declared his intention of avenging Chilperic. Gregory retorted that Chilperic had brought about his own death by his wickedness, and related a dream (visionem somnii) in which he had seen Chilperic with his head tonsured, being carried on a throne covered with black cloth. Guntram responded by describing this vision. Of the three saintly bishops in Guntram's vision, the best attested is Nicetius of Lyon (ob. 573), with a biography in Gregory's Life of the Fathers as well as another extant Life (E00060) and an account of posthumous miracles in the Histories (E07756). The longest reference in Gregory to Tetricus of Langres (ob. 568/573) is an account (Life of the Fathers 7.4, E00055) of how he reburied his father, *Gregory of Langres (S00038); an entry about him in Gregory's Glory of the Confessors was apparently planned but not written (see E02777). His appearances in the Histories (here and E07758) suggest that Gregory saw him as a saint who was particularly uncompromising towards sinners. Gregory gives a very favourable obituary notice (Histories 5.45) for Agricola, bishop of Chalon-sur-Saône (ob. 580), praising his wisdom and abstinence, and refers to him positively elsewhere (Glory of the Confessors 85, E02719), but without referring to him as a saint or attributing any miracles to him. However, the account of Guntram's vision seems to depict Agricola as a saint on the same level as Tetricus and Nicetius.


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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