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E00621: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Martyrs (74), tells of the penance, endowment of the shrine, and eventual burial of *Sigismund (king of the Burgundians, ob. 523, S00380), at the tomb of the martyrs of the *Theban Legion (soldiers and martyrs of Agaunum, S00339) at Saint-Maurice-d'Agaune (eastern Gaul); healing miracles take place at Sigismund's tomb. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 580/594.

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posted on 15.07.2015, 00:00 by pnowakowski
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs 74

Saepe enim Dominus arrogantiam contumacis mentis virga correctionis enervat, ut eandem cultus sui venerationi restituat, sicut quondam de Sigimundo rege manifesta fides gestum profert. Hic etenim post interemptum per iniquae consilium coniugis filium conpunctus corde, Agauno dirigit, ibique prostratus coram sepulchris beatissimorum martyrum legionis felicis, paenitentiam egit, deprecans, ut quaecumque deliquerat in hoc ei saeculo ultio divina retribueret, ut scilicet habeatur in iudicio absolutus, si ei mala quae gesserat, priusquam de mundo decedat, repensetur. Ibique et psallentium cotidianum instituit locumque tam in territuriis quam in reliquis rebus affluentissime ditavit. Postea vero captus a Chlodomere rege cum filiis, interfectusque eius iussu, ad eodem locum delatus, sepulturae mandatus est; quem in consortio sanctorum adscitum ipsa res quae geritur manifestat. Nam, si qui nunc frigoritici in eius honore missas devote celebrant eiusque pro requie Deo offerunt oblationem, statim, conpressis tremoribus, restinctis febribus, sanitati praestinae restaurantur.

'For the Lord often suppresses the arrogance of a stubborn mind with his rod of correction so that he might restore the same mind to respect for his worship. As clear confirmation there is the behaviour once of king Sigismund. His heart was filled with remorse after he had killed his own son at the urging of his evil wife. He went to Saint-Maurice-d'Agaune, and there he knelt before the tombs of the most blessed martyrs of the propitious [Theban] Legion. He performed penance and prayed that divine vengeance would punish him for his misdeeds in this world, so that he might be considered absolved in judgement if he repaid the evils he had committed before he departed from the world. He instituted there the daily recitation of psalms, and he most generously enriched the place with new lands and with other endowments. Later he and his sons were captured by king Chlodomer, at whose order he was killed. His body was brought to the same place and buried in a tomb. This [following] event indicates that he was received into the company of the saints (in consortio sanctorum). For whenever people suffering from fevers piously celebrate a mass in his honour (in eius honore missae) and make an offering to God for the king's repose, immediately their tremors cease, their fevers disappear, and they are restored to their earlier health.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 87. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 69, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Sigismundus, king of the Burgundians, ob. 523 : S00380 Theban Legion, soldiers commanded by *Maurice, martyred in Gaul, ob. 286 : S00339

Saint Name in Source

Sigimundus martyres legionis felicis

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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Specialised miracle-working

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


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)


For the overview of the Glory of the Martyrs see E00367. This passage gives a highly interesting insight into the role the cult of saints played in the royal ideology and personal devotion of the monarchs of 6th century Gaul. It is one of the early examples of making a saint's shrine into a centre of 'dynastic' devotion. The cult of the Theban Legion was spread all over Gaul, but Saint-Maurice-d'Agaune was its key centre, created at the monastery supposedly housing the tomb of Maurice (for Gregory's description, see E00622). The monastery, mentioned in numerous sources from the 5th and 6th c., was enlarged and re-founded in 515 by the freshly converted ex-Arian, King Sigismund (see a detailed discussion in Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1976, p. 265-268, and Rosenwein 2000). According to our passage Sigismund chose the tomb of the soldiers of the Theban Legion as a place where he sought pardon for the murder of his son, and where he was subsequently buried. Since Sigismund's family branch was not successful in seizing power in the Burgundian kingdom, the shrine in Saint-Maurice-d'Agaune did not grow to be a proper dynastic foundation (like e.g. Saint-Denis), but the attempt to create it is visible in the sources. From the passage we learn interesting details about how a royal cult of a saint looked in 6th-century Gaul. Sigismund endowed the shrine with land and 'other endowments'. He also instituted there the liturgy called today laus perennis, the continual prayer (chant) at the shrine (here documented for the very first time in the West). This custom may have been an eastern import, introduced to Agaune through the suggestion of Avitus, bishop of Vienne, Sigismund's guide in issues of the Catholic faith. But Rosenwein 2000 thinks it was a local practice. The passage is one of the very few in Gregory's writings associated with the cult of a saintly monarch. The story of Sigismund murdering his son and his first wife, and then performing penance at the monastery in Saint-Maurice-d'Agaune is also described in Gregory's Histories (2.28; 3.5-6, E07789), but only in the Glory of the Martyrs is he explicitly said to be in the company of the saints with miracles occurring at his tomb (with a possible specialisation in curing fever). Masses are said to be held in his honour. It is clear that Gregory is fostering the cult of the king, which was successful: in the early 8th century a passio of Sigismund was written in Gaul (ed. Krusch 1969, p. 329-340). We may suspect that Gregory's interest in the somewhat dubious figure of the king was caused by the fact that he was a converted Arian. The wish to promote the cult of Sigismund led Gregory to create a new model of sanctity, that of the repentant monarch.


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: Rosenwein, B.H., “Perennial Prayer at Agaune,” in: S. Farmer, Rosenwein, B. H. (ed.), Monks & Nuns, Saints & Outcasts: Religion in Medieval Society (Oxford, 2000), 37-56. 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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