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E07841: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Martyrs (43), tells how, in the mid-5th c., relics of *Agricola and Vitalis (master and slave martyrs of Bologna, S00310), brought from Bologna (northern Italy) to Clermont (central Gaul), were ceremonially greeted by Namatius, bishop of Clermont, effecting a miracle at the time. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 580/594.

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posted on 2020-01-15, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs 43

Horum reliquias Namacius Arvernorum episcopus devote expetiit, ut scilicet eas in eclesia, quam ipse construxerat, collocaret. Direxitque unum illuc presbiterum, qui abiens cum Dei gratia, quae petierat detulit. Regressusque cum sociis, in quinto ab Arverna urbe miliario revertentes metatum accipiunt et ad episcopum missos dirigunt, ut eis quid agant iubeat ordinare. Mane autem facto, sacerdos, admonitis civibus, cum crucibus et cereis ad occursum sanctarum reliquiarum devotissimus properat. Cumque ei presbiter offerret, ut beatas reliquias aspiceret, si iuberet, et ille: "Mihi", inquid, "magis est haec credere quam videre. Sic enim in Scripturis legimus sanctis, et ipse Dominus beatos illos iudicat, qui eum cum non viderint credidissent". Hac itaque sacerdotis fide pollente, Dominus sanctos suos glorificat in virtute. Nam venientibus illis, subito contenebratum est caelum, et ecce imber umbrosus atque teterrimus super eos discendit, et tanta pluvia ibidem est diffusa, ut flumina per vias illas currere cernerentur.Verum tamen circa sancta pignora per unum valde iugerum neque una gutta visa est cecidisse. Et abeuntibus illis, pluvia eos a longe, quasi praebens obsequium, sequebatur, populum fovens, gestatores autem pignorum non attingens. Haec videns pontifex, magnificavit Dominum, qui fidei suae sic favens, talia ad sanctorum gloriam operare dignatus est. Congregatis vero civibus, cum magno gaudio atque devotione sanctam eclesiam his inlustratam pignoribus dedicavit.

'Namatius, bishop of Clermont, piously sought relics (religuias) of these martyrs [Agricola and Vitalis] so that he might put them in the cathedral that he was building. He sent one of his priests there [to Bologna]; the priest left with the favour of God and brought back what Namatius sought. As the priest was returning with his companions, they turned aside five miles from Clermont and took lodgings. They sent messengers to the bishop so that he might order them to prepare what they were to do. At daybreak the bishop instructed the citizens and with great piety hurried off with crosses and candles to meet the holy relics. When the priest suggested to him that he look at the blessed relics, if he so ordered, Namatius replied: 'For me it is greater to believe these things than to see them. For so we read in the holy Scriptures, and the Lord himself judged those men to be blessed who had believed in him whom they had not seen' [cf. John 20:29]. Since the faith of this bishop was so strong, the Lord glorified his saints with his power. For as they were travelling, suddenly the sky turned dark, and behold, a heavy rainstorm fell on them. So much rain fell there that rivers were seen to run along the roads. But around the holy relics within the area of one entire iugerum [i.e. about two-thirds of an acre] not a single drop was seen to fall. As the people moved away, the rainstorm followed them at a distance, as if offering homage. The rain refreshed the people, but it never touched those carrying the relics. When the bishop saw this, he extolled the Lord who so complimented his own faith and who deigned to perform such deeds to the glory of the saints. Once his congregation assembled, with great celebration and piety bishop Namatius dedicated the holy cathedral that is distinguished by these relics.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 67. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 42-43, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Agricola and Vitalis, master and slave, martyrs of Bologna : S00310

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts


  • 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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Procession

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Crosses Oil lamps/candles


Gregory, bishop of Tours from 573 until his death (probably in 594), 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. Internal references to datable events and to other work by Gregory, suggest that he wrote the greater part of his Glory of the Martyrs between 585 and 588, though there is one chapter (ch. 82), long before the end of the book, that describes an event that is most readily dated to 590. It is in fact likely that Gregory was collecting and recording these stories throughout his life, and, fortunately for our purposes, precise dating is not of great importance, since his views on the role of saints and the correct ways to venerate them do not seem to have changed during his writing life. The work was probably never fully completed and polished: the version we have closes with four very disparate chapters, including one (105) about the divine punishment of an avaricious woman that bears no obvious connection to the overall theme of the book. (For discussions of the dating, see Van Dam 2004, xi-xii; Shaw 2015, 104-105, 111.) In his preface, Gregory states that his aim in the work is 'to publicise some of the miracles of the saints that have until now been hidden' (aliqua de sanctorum miraculis, quae actenus latuerunt, pandere), so, as in his Glory of the Confessors, his focus is not on the lives of the saints, nor on the details of their martyrdoms, but on miracles they have effected, particularly through their relics. Miracles are recorded from many places; but unsurprisingly the largest number is from Gaul. The book opens, rather curiously, with a sizeable number of miracles and relics of Jesus and his mother Mary, neither of them conventional 'martyrs'. The explanation for this must be that Gregory's interest was really much more in relics and miracles in general than in martyrs specifically. Many of the Gallic saints he included are somewhat obscure, but outside Gaul he concentrates for the most part on major saints; towards the end of the book, however, he slips in a couple of lesser Syrian saints, probably because they had interesting specialisms: Phokas and Domitios, with, respectively, particular skills at curing snake bites and sciatica. In the case of the non-Gallic saints, it is not always clear whether they were attracting active cult in Gaul – Phokas and Domitios, for instance, almost certainly didn't. It is only when Gregory tells us of a church dedication or relic that we can be certain that the saint concerned had serious cult in Gaul: in the case of the martyrs of Rome, for instance, this is true of Clement and Laurence, but not of Chrysanthus and Daria, Pancratius, and John I. Although each section contains extraneous material, the work can be broken down very roughly into the following sections:    *Chapters 1-7: Miracles and relics of Jesus (with some of Mary), including three chapters (5-7) on relics of the Passion. (For the most part, these chapters are not covered in our database.)    *Chapters 8-19: Miracles and relics of Mary and John the Baptist.    *Chapters 20-25: Miraculous images of Jesus, and a spring associated with Easter.    *Chapters 23-34: Miracles and relics of the Apostles and Stephen (i.e. New Testament saints).    *Chapters 35-41: Miracles and relics of the post-apostolic martyrs of Rome.    *Chapters 42-46: And of northern Italy.    *Chapters 47-77: And of Gaul (in no obvious order, except that the first three chapters are occupied by early martyrs). This is the longest section of the book.    *Chapters 78-87: Very miscellaneous, with only marginal references to saints: three anti-Arian stories (79-81); two stories regarding relics of Gregory's (82-83); four stories of the punishment of impure people (84-87).    *Chapters 88-102: Miracles and relics of martyrs of Spain, Africa (just one, Cyprian of Carthage), and the East, in that order.    *Chapters 103-106: Miscellaneous. But tight structuring was never a great concern of Gregory's, so within this broad framework, he often wanders off his main theme. For instance, a clutch of miracle stories relating to John the Baptist (chs. 11-13) lead Gregory into a general discussion of the River Jordan (ch. 16), which then leads him to discuss some springs near Jericho (ch. 17), linked to the preceding chapter by the common theme of 'miraculous waters in the Holy Land', but with no connection to any martyr. Similarly, a miracle story involving relics of St Andrew and the punishment of an Arian count (ch. 78) leads Gregory into three stories against Arians with no relation to saints. These digressions did not bother Gregory and are part of the charm of his work. Gregory very seldom tells us about his sources, which for the most part were certainly oral; he had a wide circle of acquaintances within the Gallic church, and also met and collected stories from travellers from abroad, including (if the source is to be believed) a man who had travelled to India (ch. 31). But Gregory also used a range of written texts, including Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History (chs. 20 and 48), the poems of Prudentius, Paulinus of Nola, and Venantius Fortunatus, and a substantial number of Martyrdoms (Van Dam 2004, xiv-xvi). Because many of his stories are set abroad, Glory of the Martyrs is less informative about cult practices than Glory of the Confessors, with its very local and very Gallic focus, but it is still a gold-mine of information. To take just two examples: the story of Benignus of Dijon is a remarkably rich and detailed account of the discovery and enhancement of a previously unknown martyr (ch. 50), while that of Patroclus of Troyes shows the importance of a written Martyrdom, and the degree of scepticism that might greet a new one (ch. 63). There is a good general discussion of Glory of the Martyrs in Van Dam 2004, ix-xxiii, and of Gregory's hagiography more widely in Shaw 2015. (Bryan Ward-Perkins)


For the overview of the Glory of the Martyrs see E00367. Namatius of Clermont was bishop in the mid-5th century (his precise dates are not recorded, but he was the second bishop before Sidonius Apollinaris, who became bishop in 469). This event is also mentioned by Gregory in the Histories (E02025), where he describes the cathedral built at Clermont by Namatius in greater detail. See Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1976, 85-89, and Prévot 1989, 32-33. The feast of the dedication of the cathedral is listed in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum on 14 May (E04814).


Edition: Krusch, B., Liber in gloria martyrum, in: Gregorii Turonensis Opera. 2: Miracula et opera minora (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 1.2; 2nd ed.; Hannover, 1969). Translation: Van Dam, R., Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs (Translated Texts for Historians 4; 2nd ed., Liverpool, 2004). Further reading: Prévot, F., "Clermont," in N. Gauthier and J.-Ch. Picard (eds.), Topographie chrétienne des cités de la Gaule des origines au milieu du VIIIe siècle, vol. 6: Provinces ecclésiastique de Bourges (Aquitania Prima) (Paris, 1989), 27-40. 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. Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., Les monuments religieux de la Gaule d'après les œuvres de Grégoire de Tours (Paris, 1976).

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