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E00048: Gregory of Tours, in his Life of *Gallus (bishop of Clermont, ob. 551, S00034), recounts how *Gallus (bishop of Clermont, ob. 551, S00034) died in an aura of sanctity and was buried in the church of *Laurence (deacon and martyr of Rome, S00037) in Clermont (central Gaul). During his funeral and at his grave miracles occurred, and grass from turf which had covered his body healed the sick. From Gregory's Life of the Fathers, written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 573/594.

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posted on 18.09.2014, 00:00 by admin
Gregory of Tours, Life of the Fathers 6.7

The date of Gallus' death is miraculously revealed to him. He gives communion to the people, sings matins and gives up the ghost.

Exinde ablutus atque vestitus in eclesiam defertur, donec conprovintiales ad eum sepeliendum convenirent. Magnum enim ibi miraculum ostensum populis fuit, quod sanctus Dei, adtracto dextro pede in feretro, se in aliud latus, quod erat versus altari, contulit. Dum haec agerentur, rogationes illae, quae post pascha fiunt, caelebrabantur. Iacuit autem in eclesia triduo, assiduo instante psallentio cum magna frequentia populi. Episcopis autem quarta die advenientibus, eum de eclesia levaverunt, et portantes in sancti Laurenti basilicam, sepeliunt. Iam vero in exsequiis eius quantus planctus, quanti populi adfuere, enarrari vix potest. Mulieres cum lucubribus indumentis, tamquam si viros perdidissent, similiter et viri, obtecto capite, ut in exsequiis uxorum facere mos est, ipsi quoque Iudaei, accensis lampadibus, plangendo prosequebantur. Omnes tamen populi una voce dicebant: "Vae nobis, qui post hac die numquam similem merebimur habere pontificem".

Et quia, ut diximus, conprovintiales longe distabant nec celerius venire potuerant, ut mos rusticorum habetur, glebam super beatum corpus posuere fideles, quo ab aestu non intumesceret. Quam cespitem post eius exsequias mulier quaedam et vere, ut ego diligenter inquisivi, virgo purissima et devota Deo Meratina nomine ab aliis eiectam collegit et in orto suo posuit, infusaque saepius aqua, Domino incrementum dante, vivere fecit. De qua cespite infirmi non solum auferentes atque bibentes herbam, sanabantur, verum etiam fidelis super eam oratio suffragium merebatur. Quae postea per incuriam, virgine migrante, deperiit.

Denique ad sepulchrum eius multae virtutes ostensae sunt. Nam quartanarii vel diversis febribus aegroti, ut ad beatum tumulum fideliter attingunt, protinus hauriunt sanitatem. Valentinianus igitur cantor, cui supra meminimus, qui nunc presbiter habetur, cum diaconatus fungeretur officium, a typo quartano corripitur, ac per multos dies in magna defectione laborans. Factum est autem, ut in die accensus huius febris loca sancta circuire disponeret orans, veniensque ad huius sancti sepulchrum, prostratus ait: "Memor esto mei, beatissime ac sanctae sacerdos. A te enim edocatus, doctus ac provocatus sum. Memor esto alumni proprii, quem amore unico dilexisti, et erue me ab hac qua deteneor febre". Haec effatus, herbolas, quae ob honorem sacerdotis tumulo respersae fuerant a devotis, collegit; et, quia virides erant, ori applicat, dentibus decerpit, sucumque earum degluttit. Praeteriit enim dies illa, nec ab hoc est pulsatus incommodo, et deinceps ita sospitati est restitutus, ut nec illas quas vulgo fractiones vocant ultra perferret. Haec ab ipsius presbiteri ore ita gestum cognovi. Non enim ambigitur, per illius potentiam prodere virtutes de tumulis servorum suorum, qui Lazarum vocavit de monumento.

'Then his body was washed and dressed, and he is carried into the church, to wait until his episcopal colleagues assembled for the burial. He accomplished there a great miracle before the people: the saint of God drew up his right foot on the bier and turned onto his other side so that he faced the altar. While these things were happening the Rogations, which follow the Easter ceremonies, were being celebrated. He lay three days in the church, and psalms were sung all the time in the midst of a great multitude of people. The bishops arrived on the fourth day, and lifted the body out of the church into the basilica of St Laurence for burial. There was such great mourning at the funeral, and so many people, that it cannot be described. The women were in mourning clothes as if their husbands had died; the men had their heads covered as was the custom at their wives' funerals. Even the Jews followed the procession in tears, and held lit lamps. And all the people said, with one voice, "Woe on us, who from this day shall never again merit such a bishop".

And as the bishops of the province were, as we have said, far away, and had not been able to come promptly, the faithful, after the custom of country people, put turf on the body of the saint so that the heat would not cause it to swell. And after the funeral ceremony a woman, or rather, as I have discovered by diligent inquiry, a very pure virgin consecrated to God, called Meratina, collected the turf that had been thrown away by the others and put it into her garden. She often watered it, and, the Lord favouring its growth, she made it live. Sick people who took away some grass and made herb tea with it were cured, and even the faithful who said a prayer over it obtained what they wanted. In the end the virgin departed, and the turf was neglected and perished.

Many miracles were also done at the tomb of St Gallus. For those ill with quartan fever and various other fevers recovered as soon as they had touched the blessed tomb with faith. The singer Valentinianus, of whom we spoke earlier, who is now priest, found himself taken with quartan fever while he was still a deacon, and was gravely ill for several days. Then it happened that during a brief recovery he decided to visit the holy place and to pray there, and he came to the tomb of St Gallus and prostrated himself before it, saying, "Remember me, holy and blessed bishop, for it is by you that I was raised, instructed and encouraged; remember your pupil whom you loved with a rare love, and deliver me from the fever which grips me". Having said this, he took some of the herbs which had been strewn around the tomb by the faithful in honour of the saint, and since they were green he put them in his mouth, chewed them with his teeth and swallowed the juice. The day passed without any fever, and in the end he was so restored to health that he had no sort of relapse, such as is commonly called a fractio. I learnt this from the mouth of the priest himself. And there is no doubt that He who called forth Lazarus from the tomb draws forth with His power such virtues from the tombs of his servants.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 235-236. Translation: James 1991, 40-42.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Gallus, bishop of Clermont (Gaul), ob. 551 : S00034 Lawrence, martyr of Rome, ob. 258 : S00037

Saint Name in Source

Gallus Laurentius

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint



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 - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle at death Miracle after death Miracle with animals and plants Healing diseases and disabilities Changing abilities and properties of the body

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Jews

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Contact relic - other Making contact relics Eating/drinking/inhaling relics

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Oil lamps/candles Flowers


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. The Life of the Fathers by Gregory of Tours is different from his other hagiographical works (Miracles of Julian, Miracles of Martin, Glory of the Confessors and Glory of the Martyrs), which all concentrate on posthumous miracles of the saints. The Life of the Fathers, by contrast, describes the exemplary behaviour in life of twenty Gallic saints (for a list of the Lives, see $E05870). Gregory himself draws this contrast in the opening words of his preface: 'I had decided to write only about what has been achieved with divine help at the tombs of the blessed martyrs and confessors; but I have recently discovered information about those who have been raised to heaven by the merit of their blessed conduct here below, and I thought that their way of life, which is known to us through reliable sources, could strengthen the Church' (trans. James 1991, 1). In this preface Gregory also explains why he chose to call the book Life of the Fathers, not Lives of the Fathers: because they all lived the same bodily life. The nineteen Lives of men, and the single Life of a woman (Life 19), all relate to holy people of Gaul, the majority living in the mid to later sixth century. Although this agenda is unspoken, there can be little doubt that Gregory wrote these Lives partly to show that holiness, and the miraculous, were not just things of the past, but very much present within the Gaul of his day (a message that he expressed explicitly in his Histories). Almost all the saints he describes were active within one or other of the two dioceses with which Gregory was most familiar (his native Clermont, and Tours, the city of his episcopate), or indeed were his relatives (all bishops - Life 6 is of an uncle, Life 7 of a great-grandfather, and Life 8 of a great-uncle). Although Gregory says in his preface that they all shared one bodily life, in reality his saints fall into one of two distinct categories: holy bishops who are effective leaders of their flocks but only moderately ascetic (Lives 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 17), and holy ascetics who have withdrawn from the world and sometimes engage in extreme mortification of the body (Lives 1, 3, 5, 9-16, and 18-20). Gregory's work was unquestionably didactic in purpose - teaching the correct way to lead a good Christian life, and it is notable, for instance, how, in this work written by a bishop, his ascetics accept episcopal correction when necessary (Lives 15.2 and 20.3, in both cases from Gregory himself), and might even delay their death to suit the timetable of a bishop (Life 10.4). Because the focus is on the lives of these holy people, there is much less emphasis on their cult after death than in Gregory's other hagiographical works; however, all the Lives close with an account of the burial of the saint, and in almost all cases with reference to posthumous miracles recorded there (the exceptions are Lives 10, 11 and 20, which have no reference to miracles at the tomb). Gregory probably collected material for the Life of the Fathers (and perhaps wrote individual Lives) over a long period of time. However, from the words of his preface (quoted above) and from other references within the text, it is evident that he assembled his material into the polished work we have today only towards the very end of his life, after he had already written much of his extensive hagiography recording the miracles of saints lying in their graves. Because Gregory's views on saints do not seem to have changed during his writing life, we have not here expended energy in exploring the possible dating of individual lives, merely recording them all as written some time between 573 and 594. For more on the text, and on its dating: James 1991, xiii-xix; Shaw 2015, particularly 117-120.


For an overview of the Life of Gallus, see E00039. Gallus was bishop of Clermont and Gregory's uncle and the text presents him as a perfect bishop and exemplary community leader. The events accompanying his death emphasise even more his merits in this regard. Gallus' death is dated to 551 on the basis of the information given by Gregory in the Life (James 1991, 40). The church of Laurence in Clermont, where Gallus is buried, may be identical with the one mentioned by Gregory in his Histories 2.20 (E02027) as founded by Duke Victorius. The unusually long (compared to other lives in the collection) description of Gallus' death, funeral, and posthumous cult consists of both typical and less common elements. To the former belongs the procession with the saint's body and the mourning of the dead, as well as the crowds at the funeral and the miracles taking place at the saint's grave. The active presence of other bishops at the funeral, mentioned by Gregory several times, probably served as recognition both of Gallus' merits and sanctity. Not so common, although easily explicable is the participation of Jews in the burial ceremony. Worth mentioning are the unusual items serving as Gallus' contact relics: the turf (glaeba) which covered the saint's body awaiting the burial and herbs scattered around his grave. Not only do they give insight into Gallic burial (turf) and cultic (herbs) customs, but they also exemplify the rule that virtually any substance coming in physical contact with the saint can transmit his miraculous power. Interestingly, Gregory says twice that this power was activated by eating/drinking/chewing plants. For a similar account see E00063.


Edition: Krusch, B., Gregorii Turonensis Opera. 2: Miracula et opera minora (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum I.2; 2nd ed.; Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 1969). Translation: James, E., Gregory of Tours. Life of the Fathers (Translated Texts for Historians 1; 2nd ed.; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1991). de Nie, G., Gregory of Tours, Lives and Miracles (Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 39; Cambridge MA, 2015). Further reading: 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.

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