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E00480: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Martyrs (67-68), recounts several miracles of *Genesius (notary and martyr of Arles, S00263): how wood from a tree at the place of his martyrdom cures the sick; how on the day of his festival those endangered by the collapse of the bridge of boats over the Rhône were saved; how the Lombards failed to loot the church of his burial; and how a woman cast into the Rhône was saved when she invoked the saint; all in Arles (southern Gaul). Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 580/594.

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posted on 09.02.2021, 10:23 by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs 67-68

In chapter 66, Gregory has mentioned relics of Genesius of Arles (E00479). In these next two chapters, Gregory expounds on miracles of this Genesius:

67. Hic vero martyr Genesius decesionem cervicis agonem pro Christi nomine apud eandem, Arelatensim scilicet, urbem, pollentem fervorem fidei, consummavit. Est autem ibi arbor, ubi dicitur decollatus fuisse, genere morus, ex qua infirmis multa plerumque beneficia, inpertiente martyre, sunt concessa. Sed decursis temporibus, cum rami cortixque eius pro salvatione a multis detraherentur, arefacta est. Verum tamen adhuc fideliter petentibus vivit, similia praebens medicamina quod superest de colomna.

'This martyr Genesius, because of the strength of the fervour of his faith, consummated his struggle for the name of Christ by having his head cut off in the same city, that is, Arles. At the spot where he is said to have been beheaded there is a mulberry tree that with the assistance of the martyr often offered many benefits to ill people. But with the passage of time, after many people had broken off its branches and bark for healing purposes, it withered. What remains of the trunk is, however, still alive for those who make devout requests, and it offers similar remedies.'

68. In this chapter Gregory relates three separate miracles of Genesius:

Sed et pons quondam super Rhodanum fluvium, ubi beatus martyr natasse fertur, in die solemnitatis eius, disruptis catenis, quia super naves locatus erat, nutare coepit, ac prae nimio pondere populorum ipsae naves dehiscentes, in alveo fluminis populum submergebant. Tunc omnes simul in discrimine positi, una voce clamaverunt, dicentes: "Genesi beatissime, eripe nos propriae sanctitatis virtute, ne pereat plebs, quae fideliter advenit tua devote solemnia celebrare". Mox, flante vento, vulgus omne ad litus reductum, miratur, se virtute martyris esse salvatum.

'The bridge over the river Rhône, where the blessed martyr is said to have swum, on the day of his feast broke its chains (it being set on boats) and began to sway. Because of the great weight of the people, the boats broke apart and threw the people into the river. Everyone was placed in the same danger, and they shouted with one voice and said: 'Blessed Genesius, save us by the power of your own holiness, lest the people who have faithfully and piously come to celebrate your festival perish.' Soon a wind blew up and the entire crowd of people was brought to the bank. They marvelled that they had been saved by the power of the martyr.'

Nam et cancelli beati sepulchri saepius a Langobardis vel reliquis hostibus confracti sunt. Sed arrepti a daemone homines aut conprehensi rabiae, debachantes aut propriis se dentibus lacerantes, nihil de his quae violenter coeperant abstulerunt.

'Lombards and other enemies often broke the gates of his holy tomb. These men were possessed by a demon and seized by madness. They raged and bit themselves with their own teeth, but they carried off none of the objects they had violently taken.'

Ferunt etiam in hac urbe fuisse mulierem, cui a viro crimen inpactum nec omnino probatum, a iudice, ut aquis inmergeretur, diiudicata est. Cui cum ad collum lapis inmensus funibus colligatus fuisset, in Rhodanum de navi praecipitata est. Illa vero beati martyris auxilium precabatur, et nomen eius invocans, aiebat: "Sancte Genesi, gloriosae martyr, qui has aquas natandi pulsu sanctificasti, erue me iuxta innocentiam meam!" Et statim super aquas ferri coepit. Quod videntes populi, susceperunt eam in navi et ad basilicam sancti deduxerunt incolomen; nec ulterius a viro vel a iudice est quaesita.

'They say that in Arles there was a woman whose husband accused her of a crime. Although the accusation was not proved at all, it was decided by a judge that she be submerged in the water. A huge stone was tied to her neck with ropes, and she was thrown from a boat into the river Rhône. But she begged for the assistance of the blessed martyr, invoked his name, and said: "St Genesius, glorious martyr, you who have sanctified these waters with the stroke of your swimming, rescue me because of my innocence!" Immediately she began to float on the waters. When the people saw this, they took her into the boat and brought her alive to the church of the saint. Neither her husband nor the judge investigated her further.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 83-84. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 64-65, modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Genesius of Arles, notary and martyr, ob. 303/308 : S00263

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

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



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 - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Place of martyrdom of a saint

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Gates, bridges and roads

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Unspecified miracle Healing diseases and disabilities Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Miraculous protection - of people and their property Punishing miracle Exorcism Miracle after death Freeing prisoners, exiles, captives, slaves Juridical interventions

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Foreigners (including Barbarians) Women Crowds


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)


Genesius of Arles was a prominent saint venerated in Arles: a sermon was composed on him already in 430/449 (E00795), and an account of his Martyrdom (passio) was written in the 6th c. (E00486). All these texts associate Genesius very closely with the river Rhône. In the Martyrdom the saint swam the river when escaping his persecutors: it states that the Rhône sanctified the saint and the saint sanctified the river. Gregory obviously knew this tradition and developed it further. He relates two miracles taking place on the river through the intervention of Genesius, one on the day of his feast, when a bridge of boats was set up across the river so that worshippers could cross from the main city to the place of Genesius' martyrdom (present-day Trinquetaille). This miracle, when the bridge broke under the weight of pilgrims but everyone escaped unharmed, took place when Honoratus was bishop of Arles (426/7-429/30); it is narrated in detail in a probably contemporary document, which may have been Gregory's source (E05724). According to Gregory, the cult of Genesius focused around the place of his martyrdom; on this spot a tree with healing properties had grown, of which in Gregory's times only the trunk was left. In this place, today's Trinquetaille, a district of Arles on the right bank of the Rhône, there still exists a church of Genesius (until the early 19th century called Saint Genès à la colonne, see Vieillard-Troiekouroff, p. 37). The burial-church of Genesius mentioned by Gregory in relation to Lombard depredations, is on the left bank of the river, outside the main city of Arles, Saint Genès aux Alyscamps. This church had a long history, we know of three burials which took place there: of Bishop Concordius in 385, *Honoratus (founder of Lérins and bishop of Arles, ob. 429/30, S00438) in 429 and *Hilary of Arles (Hilarius/Hilary, bishop of Arles, ob. 449, S00435) in 449. The church was later renamed Saint-Honorat (Vieillard-Troiekouroff, p. 38). The cult of Genesius in Arles and elsewhere is an intriguing case of a close connection between the veneration of a Christian saint and what seems to be a local non-Christian cult associated with fertility and the river. This connection finds its expression in the saint's association with the river and with the miraculous tree. Importantly, miraculous trees feature also in other passages concerning the cult of Genesius of Arles (see E00478), as well as his double, *Genesius of Tarbes (priest and martyr, S00266) (see E00481). An association with a local cult can also be seen with high probability in the case of *Genesius of Thiers (martyr of Thiers, S00264) (see E00479).


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. Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., Les monuments religieux de la Gaule d'après les œuvres de Grégoire de Tours (Paris, 1976).

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Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity