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E00380: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Martyrs (9), tells the legend of a Jewish boy in the East receiving the eucharist in a church of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), being thrown into a furnace by his enraged father, and being protected by her from the fire. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 580/594.

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posted on 13.04.2015, 00:00 by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs 9

Gregory recounts an event that happened 'in the East (in Oriente). The son of a Jewish glass-maker (vitrarius) was learning his letters with Christian boys, and, entering a church of Mary, took communion with them. The boy is thrown into a burning furnace by his enraged father, but is saved from it just as the Three Hebrew Youths were saved [Daniel 3:8-30]. His mother is unaware of the miracle and mourns her son with loud cries. People assemble, the miracle is disclosed and the crowd throws the father into the furnace. He burns to death.

Interrogantes autem infantulum christiani, quale ei inter ignes fuisset umbraculum, ait: 'Mulier, quae in basilicam illam, ubi panem de mensa accepi, in cathedra resedens, parvulum in sinu gestat infantem, haec me pallio suo, ne ignis voraret, operuit'. Unde indubitatum est, beatam ei Mariam apparuisse.

'When the Christians asked the young boy what sort of shield he had had in the flames, he said: "The woman who was sitting on the throne in that church where I received the bread from the table and who was cradling a young boy in her lap covered me with her cloak, so that the fire did not devour me." There is hence no doubt that the blessed Mary had appeared to him.

The boy, his mother, and many other Jews in the city are baptised as Christians.

Text: Krusch 1969, 44. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 11-12. Summary: Marta Tycner

History

Evidence ID

E00380

Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033

Saint Name in Source

Maria

Type of Evidence

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

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

583

Evidence not after

593

Activity not before

60

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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Eucharist associated with cult

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Scepticism/rejection of the cult of saints

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Descriptions of images of saints

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Miraculous protection - of people and their property Miraculous behaviour of relics/images

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Children Jews Crowds

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. 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)

Discussion

For an overview of the Glory of the Martyrs see E00367. Neither the date nor the place of the event is mentioned in the text. We can only suspect that Gregory imagines his story taking place somewhere in the Holy Land, since this is where other episodes of the early chapters of the Glory of the Martyrs occur. The episode that follows is set in Jerusalem (see E00381), so its surroundings might be the location Gregory had in mind while writing the story of the Jewish boy. Yet another argument in favour of this location might be the previous mention of a church here of Mary, in chapter 8. It is possible that Gregory refers in both chapter 8 and in chapter 9 to the same place (see discussion in E00378). Particularly interesting is the way in which, according to Gregory, the Jewish boy describes Mary. He says that he saw her in the church, sitting on a throne and cradling a young boy in her lap, and later refers to her cloak (pallium). Unless it was a vision, this must be a reference to an image of Mary in the shrine. It confirms the popularity and canonicity of the iconography of the enthroned Mary in the 6th century. Interestingly, it is the image (and not, for instance, relics) which are the key object associating the church dedicated to Mary with her patron. Finally, the miracle itself is an interesting example of the conviction that Mary is especially powerful as a protective saint, with her cloak as an attribute associated directly with this function. The same story is also recorded in the Ecclesiastical History of Evagrius (E05076) who places it in Constantinople under Patriarch Menas (536-552). In Evagrius' account, the woman who saved the boy is not named as Mary, but her identity is implied by describing her as dressed in purple clothes.

Bibliography

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: 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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