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E07807: Gregory of Tours, in the prologue to Book 3 of his Miracles of Martin, discusses the different kinds of miracle that take place at the tomb in Tours of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050), and describes his own experiences of healing by Martiin. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 581/588.

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posted on 2019-10-24, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Gregory of Tours, Miracles of Martin (Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi), Book 3, prologue

Tertio, ordinante Christo, libello de virtutibus beati Martini scribere incipientes, gratias agimus omnipotenti Deo, qui nobis talem medicum tribuere dignatus est, qui infirmitates nostras purgaret, vulnera dilueret ac salubria medicamenta conferret. Nam ad eius beatum tumulum humilietur animus, et oratio sublimetur. Si defluant lacrimae, et conpunctio vera succedat, si ab imo corde mittantur suspiria, et pectora facinorosa tundantur, invenit ploratus laetitiam, culpa veniam, dolor pectoris pervenit ad medellam. Nam saepius tactus beati sepulchri profluviis imperavit sistere, caecis videre, paralyticis surgere et ipsam quoque pectoris amaritudinem longe discedere. Quod ego plerumque expertus, indignum me iudico, ut inter tantorum miraculorum moles etiam illa hic inseram, quod super me operari dignatus est. Sed iterum timeo, ne noxialis appaream, si ea tamquam fraudulentus abscondam. Testor etenim Deum et spem illam, quam in eius virtute posui, credens, me ab illius misericordia non frustrari; quia, quotienscumque aut dolor capitis inruit, aut timpora pulsus inpulit, aut aures auditus gravavit, aut oculorum aciem caligo suffudit, aut aliis membris dolor insedit, statim ut locum dolentem vel tumulo vel pendente velo adtigi, protinus sanitatem recepi; mirans tacitus, in ipso tactu dolorem recessisse cum cursu.

'As I begin, under the direction of Christ, to write this third book about the miracles of the blessed Martin, I thank omnipotent God who deigned to provide me with the sort of doctor who cleanses my infirmities, washes away my wounds, and bestows effective remedies. For before his blessed tomb passion is to be humbled and prayer is to be raised. If tears flow and genuine remorse follows, if sighs rise up from the bottom of the heart and guilty breasts are beaten, then weeping will find happiness, guilt will find pardon, and the grief in our breasts will end with a remedy. For often simply touching the blessed tomb compels people suffering from diarrhea to control themselves, the blind to see, the paralyzed to stand up, and even the bitterness in our hearts to withdraw completely. Although I have often experienced this [miraculous power], I consider myself unworthy to include here along with this collection of great miracles even what he deigned to perform on my behalf. But again I fear to appear guilty, if like a charlatan I conceal these miracles. Indeed, I call God as my witness that I am not deprived of [Martin’s] compassion, and I trust in that hope that I have placed in his power. For however often a headache has attacked, or a pounding has struck my temples, or my hearing has oppressed my ears, or a darkness has obscured the sight in my eyes, or a pain has appeared in other limbs, as soon as I touched the painful part [of my body] either to the tomb or to the curtain hanging [there], I immediately recovered my health. I silently marveled that the pain quickly departed at the moment of contact.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 182. Translation: Van Dam 1993, 259-260.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397 : S00050

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles


  • 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 - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Precious cloths


Gregory, of a prominent Clermont family with extensive ecclesiastical connections, was bishop of Tours from 573 until his death (probably in 594). He was the most prolific hagiographer of all Late Antiquity. He wrote four books on the miracles of Martin of Tours, one on those of Julian of Brioude, and two on the miracles of other saints (the Glory of the Martyrs and Glory of the Confessors), as well as a collection of twenty short Lives of sixth-century Gallic saints (the Life of the Fathers). He also included a mass of material on saints in his long and detailed Histories, and produced two independent short works: a Latin version of the Acts of Andrew and a Latin translation of the story of The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. Gregory's Miracles of Martin (full title Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi, 'Books of the Miracles of Saint Martin the Bishop'), consists of four books of miracles, 207 chapters in all, effected by Martin, primarily at his grave and shrine in Tours. Most of them occurred at the time of the saint's festivals, on 4 July and 11 November. Gregory tried to record the miracles in chronological order, so historians have been able to calculate quite precisely the dates of the events and miracles mentioned in the work. This fairly precise chronology has enabled scholars to determine the dates of completion of each book. There have been three main dating schemes proposed for the composition of the four books. The oldest was suggested by Monod in 1872, another by Krusch in 1885, and then one by Van Dam in 1993 (for fuller discussion, see Shaw 2015, 103-105). Their datings of the individual books do not vary substantially, and in our entries we have given only those of Van Dam. Shaw 2015 convincingly demolishes an earlier theory, that Gregory wrote the Miracles in two distinct stages: a first stage that was written during a particular period, and a second stage in the early 590s, in which Gregory revised the whole work. Book 1, with 40 chapters, was written between 573 and 576. In the prologue, Gregory mentions that he started writing after he became bishop of Tours in August 573. Book 1 must have been completed by 576, since Venantius Fortunatus in a letter to Gregory of that year referred to it (Epistula ad Gregorium 2, prefatory letter to Fortunatus' Life of Martin, MGH Auct. ant. 4.1, p. 293). Book 2 consists of 60 chapters. It must have been finished before November 581, because the last miracles it mentions occurred in November 580, while the first ones recorded in Book 3 happened in November 581. Using the same methodology, the completion of Book 3, which also covers 60 chapters, can be dated between 587 and July 588. Book 4, which consists of 47 chapters, seems never to have been completed, presumably because of Gregory’s death. There are two main arguments in support of the idea that it is unfinished. Firstly, Book 4 has no conclusion and no tidy number of chapters, while each of Books 1 to 3 has these elements. Secondly, the last story recorded in Book 4 is not about Gregory himself, unlike the final stories of Books 2 and 3. Book 1 covers miracles that occurred before Gregory’s episcopate in Tours. The next three books are a running chronicle of Martin’s miracles under Gregory’s episcopate. Some of the miracles are recorded in very summary form, while others are much more elaborately presented: because of this, it has been argued that Gregory first jotted down notes, and only subsequently gave the stories full literary treatment (which in some cases, he was never able to do). The three completed books of the Miracles of Martin were probably released as they were completed, rather that published together. In this sense they are the exception amongst Gregory's writings, since the rest of his work was not finally completed and seems to have been unpublished at the time of his death. For discussion of the work, see: Krusch, B. (ed.), Gregorii episcopi Turonensis miracula et opera minora (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 1,2; 2nd ed.; Hannover, 1969), 2–4. Monod, G., Études critiques sur les sources de l’histoire mérovingienne, 1e partie (Paris, 1872), 42–45. Shaw, R., "Chronology, Composition and Authorial Conception in the Miracula," in: A.C. Murray (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden-Boston, 2015), 102–140. Van Dam, R., Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, 1993), 142–146, 199.


Gregory begins each book of the Miracles of Martin with a prologue briefly referring to Martin's miracles and giving general reflections on the nature of sainthood, miracles, and the relationship between saints and those who venerate them. In the prologue to Book 3, he alludes to the healing miracles which took place at Martin's tomb, and briefly mentions the occasions when he himself was healed by touching Martin's tomb or the curtain hanging round it.


Editions and translations: Krusch, B. (ed.), Gregorii episcopi Turonensis miracula et opera minora (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 1,2; 2nd ed.; Hannover, 1969), 134–211. Van Dam, R. (trans.), Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, 1993), 200–303. de Nie, G. (ed. and trans.), Lives and Miracles: Gregory of Tours (Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 39; Cambridge MA, 2015), 421–855. Further reading: Murray, A.C. (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden-Boston, 2015). Shanzer, D., "So Many Saints – So Little Time ... the Libri Miraculorum of Gregory of Tours," Journal of Medieval Latin 13 (2003), 19–63.

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