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E00310: Gregory of Tours, in his Life of *Venantius (priest and abbot in Tours, ob. late 5th century, S00121), tells of the posthumous cult and miracles of the saint taking place at his grave and bed in Tours (north-west Gaul). From Gregory's Life of the Fathers, written in Latin in Tours, 573/594.

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posted on 18.02.2015, 00:00 by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Life of the Fathers 16.4

Gregory relates some of the miracles that have occurred at Venantius' grave in Tours:

(Ch.4) His et talibus virtutum magnarum gratia pollens, impleto vitae praesentis curriculo, vitam percepturus aeternam, emicuit saeculo, cuius beatum sepulchrum miraculorum inlustrium effectu plerumque redditur gloriosum.Mascarpionis servi ipsius monasterii mentem iniquus daemon obsederat; qui per trium annorum curriculo inerguminus factus, ad sepulchrum beati viri debacans, tandem eius est, ut credimus, oratione, eiecto daemone, expurgatus, multos deinceps mente integra vivens annos. Iuliani coniux quartanae febris accensu laborans, ut sepulchrum beati viri attigit, conpraesso ardore ac tremore corporali, sanata discessit. Simili sorte et Baudimundi uxor ab hac febre laborabat; sed ubi ad lectulum sancti viri prostrata fudit orationem, mox incolomitate restituta convaluit. Multa quidem et alia de eo audivimus, sed sufficere haec ad credulitatem catholicorum quae scripta sunt arbitramur.

'The man who had received the grace of accomplishing great miracles and other similar things, after having completed the course of his present life, left the world in order to receive eternal life, and his tomb is often glorified by illustrious miracles. A wicked demon had troubled the spirit of Mascarpion, a servant of the monastery, who was possessed for three years and used to come to rave in front of the tomb of the holy man. In the end he was, we believe, delivered of this demon by the prayer of the blessed man, and he lived for long years quite sane in his mind. The wife of Julian, who was oppressed by a quartan fever, was delivered from all fire and from all shivering as soon as she touched the tomb of the holy man, and she left cured. The wife of Baudimund was in the same state, and she was cured as soon as she had fallen down and prayed beside the bed of the same saint. We have heard many other things about him, but those which we have written are sufficient, we think, to establish belief in the minds of catholics.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 276-277. Translation: James 1991, 103.

History

Evidence ID

E00310

Saint Name

Venantius, presbyter and abbot from Tours (Gaul), ob. late 5th c. : S00121

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

573

Evidence not after

593

Activity not before

480

Activity not after

593

Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Tours

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

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Exorcism

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Women

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Contact relic - saint’s possession and clothes

Source

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.

Discussion

For an overview of the Life of Venantius, see E00308. Venantius was almost certainly buried in the monastery where he had been abbot, i.e. in the abbatiola sancti Venantii which was located near the basilica of Martin in Tours, and is known to us from later sources (see E00308). According to Gregory, not only the tomb of the saint, but also his bed was treated as a relic (for other saints' beds and their miraculous power, see e.g. E00049 and E00042). Interestingly, Gregory mentions the names of the people who experienced the miracles without any introduction, as if they were known to him (and to his audience?), and in the last sentence he claims that he knows these miracle stories from hearing them (rather than from any written record of miracles at the shrine, see e.g. E00065 and E00166).

Bibliography

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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