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E00334: Gregory of Tours, in his Life of *Ursus and Leobatius (abbots in Berry and the Touraine, around AD 500, S00137), tells of miracles at the tomb of Ursus at Loches, and of the abbacy and death of Leobatius at Sennevières, both in the Touraine (north-west Gaul). From Gregory's Life of the Fathers, written in Latin in Tours, 573/594.

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posted on 06.03.2015, 00:00 by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Life of the Fathers 18.3

(Ch.3) His et talibus virtutibus praeditus, consummato cursu vitae, migravit ad Dominum. Ad cuius tumulum postea et inergumini sanati et caeci inluminati sunt. Post cuius obitum propositi, qui per monasteria erant, abbatiae officium, episcopis largientibus, susceperunt. Sed et Leobatius apud Senapariam monasterium, quod infra terminum Turonicum erat, abba instituitur, in summa sanctitate ac senectute perdurans, ibique et obiit ac sepultus est.

'Having finished the course of his life, filled with such virtues, he [Ursus] passed to the Lord. Afterwards at his tomb the possessed were cured and the blind recovered their sight. After his death, the priors whom he had put at the head of the monasteries he had founded were established as abbots, with the consent of the bishops. Leobatius was established as abbot of Sennevières, in the diocese of Tours, where he lived in great sanctity and lived to a great age. He died there and was buried there.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 285. Translation: James 1991, 117, lightly modified.
Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

Categories

Keywords

History

Evidence ID

E00334

Saint Name

Ursus, abbot of Loches in Gaul, ob c. 500 : S00137

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

573

Evidence not after

593

Activity not before

500

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 - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Exorcism

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body

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 Ursus and Leobatius, see E00332. Ursus' death must have occurred some time around 500, since in chapter 2 of the Life he was in dispute with a favourite of the Visigothic king Alaric II (r. 484-507; James 1991, 117). Gregory does not explicitly state where he was buried, but it must have been at Loches, the monastery where he settled. The description of cult that Gregory gives is laconic; he was more preoccupied with explaining what happened after Ursus' death with the monastic structure he had founded.

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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Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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