University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E07809: Gregory of Tours, in the prologue to Book 4 of his Miracles of Martin, discusses the saints' power of intercession, in the life and in the next, for those who seek their patronage. He refers to his own patron, *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050), and describes his own experiences of healing by Martin. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 588/594.

online resource
posted on 2019-10-25, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Gregory of Tours, Miracles of Martin (Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi) Book 4, prologue

Saluberrimo nos hortatu propheta admonet, dicens: Honorandi sunt amici tui, Deus. Nihilhominus et in alio psalmo: Qui timentes Dominum magnificat, beatitudine copulatur domus aeternae. Ergo perspicue patet intellectui humano, quod admoneantur quique non solum inmunes a crimine, verum etiam noxialis criminis malo dediti, cultum reverentes reddere amicis Dei. Quae res non solum in praesenti saeculo tribuit beneficium, verum etiam praestat et refrigerium in futuro. Nam cum saepe videamus vir tutum insignia prodere de tumulis beatorum, non inmerito commovemur debitam eis honoris reverentiam inpendere, a quibus non desistimus infirmitatum remedia flagitare. Quorum precibus et ipsam peccaminum remissionem non dubitamus adipisci et non modo hanc mereri, verum ab infernalibus suppliciis eorum interventu salvari. Confidimus enim, quod, sicut hic morborum genera resecant, illic saevas tormentorum poenas avertant, et, sicut hic mitigant febres corporeas, illinc restingant aeternas, et, quomodo hic luridae leprae ulcera sordentia mundant, illic delictorum maculas mederi suo interventu obteneant, ac, sicut hic mortuorum cadavera ad vitam resuscitant, illic peccato sepultos, ex Acharonticis stagnis manu iniecta erutos, vitae aeternae restituant. Quocirca, dum unusquisque laetificatur in gaudio proprio sub patrono, tunc inpensius honorem reddit debitum, cum se senserit ab infirmitate qua detenebatur eius virtute mundatum; sicut nunc de beato ac toto orbi peculiare patrono Martino antistite et nos et innumeri populi sunt experti; et utinam ignavia mentis nostrae permitteret eum sic venerari, ut decet amicum Dei, qui, tantis in nos morborum obpressis generibus, plerumque restituit sanitati!

'The prophet warns us with very sound advice when he says: “God, your friends must be honored.” Likewise in another Psalm: “He who praises those who fear the Lord is united to the blessing of an eternal home” [cf. Ps. 15:4-5]. It is therefore clearly apparent to the human mind that not only those who are immune from crime but also those who are bound by the evil of injurious crime are advised to show respectful veneration for the friends of God. Not only is this something that is beneficial in this present world, but it also offers consolation in the future. For often whenever we witness the evidence of the miracles that appear at the tombs of the blessed [saints], we are deservedly motivated to show the honorable respect that is owed to these [saints] from whom we do not cease to request remedies for our afflictions. We do not doubt not only that we are worthy to acquire this remission for our sins through their prayers, but also that we are saved from the infernal torments through their intervention. For we believe that just as they restrain [all] kinds of illnesses here, so they deflect the ruthless penalties of torments there; that just as they alleviate bodily fevers here, so they quench the eternal flames there; that just as they cleanse the horrible ulcers of ghastly leprosy here, so through their intervention they obtain relief for the blemishes of sins there; and that just as they restore to life the bodies of the dead here, so there they extend their hand, dig up from the waters of the Acheron those buried in sin, and restore them to eternal life. As a result, each person then cheerfully rejoices under the protection of his own patron [saint] and more eagerly repays the honor that is owed, when he realizes that he has been cleansed by his patron’s power from the illness that he suffered; likewise now both I myself and countless others have experienced [the power of] the blessed bishop Martin, who is a special patron for the entire world. If only the worthlessness of my mind will allow him to be honored as is proper for a friend of God! For whenever different kinds of serious illnesses afflicted me, he often restored me to health.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 199. Translation: Van Dam 1993, 284-285.


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

Saint as patron - of an individual

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


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 4, he reflects on the role of the saints as patrons, and argues that their healing miracles demonstrate their power to intercede after death to gain the remission of punishment for the sins of those who venerate them.


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.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager