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E02332: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (9.6), recounts how a false holy man, claiming to have relics from Spain of *Vincent (deacon and martyr of Saragossa and Valencia, S00290) and *Felix (martyr of Gerona, S00408), had appeared in Tours in around 580. After behaving with extreme arrogance towards Gregory, he left for Paris, where he attracted a following until imprisoned by Bishop Ragnemod, who destroyed his false relics. Escaping, he entered the Parisian church of *Julian (martyr of Brioude, S00035). Gregory mentions the existence of other such false saints, who attracted followings. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 587/594.

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posted on 05.02.2017, 00:00 by mszada
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae ) 9.6

Nam et ante hos septem annos fuit et alius valde seductur, qui multos decepit dolositate sua. Hic enim colobio indutus erat, amictus desuper sindonem, crucem ferens, de qua dependebant ampullulae, quas dicebat oleum sanctum habere. Aiebat enim se de Hispaniis adventare ac reliquias beatissimorum martyrum Vincenti levitae Felicisque martyris exhibere. Sed cum iam vespere ad basilicam sancti Martini Thoronus advenisset et nos convivio resederemus, mandatum misit, dicens: 'Occurrant reliquiis sanctis'. Cui nos, quia hora iam praeterierat, dixemus: 'Requiescant beatae reliquiae super altarium, donec mane procedemus ad occursum earum'. Sed hic primum diluculo consurgens, nec expectatis nobis, advenit cum cruce sua et in cellola nostra adfuit. Stupefactus ego et admirans levitatem, interrogo, quid sibi haec vellent. Respondit quasi superbus et inflata voce: 'Meliorem', inquid, 'occursum nobis exhibere debueras. Sed haec ego in auribus Chilperici reges ingeram; ille autem ulciscitur dispectionem meam'. Et ingressus in oraturio, me postposito, ipse capitellum unum adque alterum ac tertium dicit, ipse orationem profert et ipse consumat, elevataque iterum cruce, abiit. Erat enim ei et sermo rusticus et ipsius linguae latitudo turpis atque obscoena; sed nec de eo sermo rationabilis procedebat. Qui usque Pariseus accessit. His enim diebus rogationes publicae caelebrabantur, quae ante sanctum dominicae ascensiones diem agi solent. Factum est autem, ut, procedente Ragnemodo pontifice cum populo suo et loca sancta circumeunte, ut et hic cum cruce sua adveniens, inusitato populis exhibens indumento, adiunctis publicanis ac rusticis mulieribus, et iste chorum suum faceret, et quasi cum sua multitudine loca sancta circuire temptat. Haec cernens episcopus, misit archidiaconum, dicens: 'Si reliquias sanctorum exhibes, pone eas paululum in basilica et nobiscum caelebra dies sanctos; decursa autem sollemnitatem, profecisceris in viam tuam'. At ille parvi pendens, quae ab archidiaconum dicebantur, coepit episcopum conviciis ac maledictionibus prosequi. Sacerdos vero intellegens eum seductorem, iussit eum recludi in cellolam. Perscrutatisque cunctis quae habebat, invenit cum eo sacculum magnum plenum de radicibus diversarum herbarum, ibique et dentes talpae et ossa murium et ungues atque adipes ursinos. Vidensque haec maleficia esse, cuncta iussit in flumine proici; ablataque ei cruce, iussit eum a termino Parisiacae urbis excludi. Sed hic iterum, facta sibi altera cruce, coepit quae prius gesserat exercere; captusque ab archidiacono et catenis vinctus, iussus est costodire.

His diebus Parisius adveneram et ad basilicam beati Iuliani marthyris metatum habebam. Nocte igitur insequenti erumpens miser iste de custodia, cum ipsis quibus erat nexus catenis ad antedictam basilicam sancti Iuliam properat atque in pavimento, in loco quo ego stare eram solitus, ruit ac sopore vinoque obpressus obdormivit. Nos vero ignari facto, media surgentes nocte ad reddendas Domino gratias, invenimus eum dormientem. De quo tantus fetor egrediebatur, ut omnium cloacarum adque secessorum fetores fetor ille devinceret. Sed nec nos prae hoc fetore in basilicam ingredi potueramus. Accedens vero unus clericorum, clausis naribus, eum excitare nititur nec potuit; ita enim erat miser madefactus vino. Tunc quattuor accedentes clerici, levantes eum inter manus, in uno angulo basilicae proiecerunt; et exhibentes aquas, abluto pavimento, resperso etiam herbolis odoratis, sic ingressi sumus explere cursum. Numquam tamen nobis psallentibus potuit excitare, donec, dato terris diae, altius solis lampas ascenderet. Dehinc excusatum reddidi sacerdotem. Convenientibus autem episcopis apud urbem Parisiacam, dum haec in convivio narravimus, ipsum pro castigationis gratia adesse praecipimus. Quo adstante, elevatis Amelius Beorretanae urbis episcopus oculis, cognoscit eum suum esse famulum sibique per fugam dilapsum; et sic excusatum receptum reduxit in patriam. Multi enim sunt, qui, has seductiones exercentes, populum rusticum in errore ponere non desistunt, de quibus, ut opinor, et Dominus in euangelio ait, consurgere in novissimis temporibus pseudochristus et pseudoprophetas, qui, dantes signa et prodigia, etiam electos in errore inducant. De his ista sufficiant; nos potius ad propositum rediamus.


'Seven years before there appeared another great impostor, who deceived many folk with his tricks. He came dressed in a short-sleeved tunic, with a mantle of fine muslin on top, and he carried a cross from which hung a number of phials, containing, or so people said, holy oil. He gave it out that he had come from Spain and that he had in his possession relics of the two most blessed martyrs, Felix and Vincent the deacon. He turned up at Saint Martin’s church in Tours just as night was falling and I was having my supper. He sent in a message: ‘Come quickly and look at my holy relics.' As the hour was so late, I replied: ‘Let the holy relics be placed upon the altar, and in the morning I will come out to look at them.’ At first light the man rose from his bed and, without waiting for me to appear, arrived with his cross and marched straight into my cell. I was quite dumbfounded and flabbergasted at his impudence. I asked him what he meant by behaving in this way. He answered me very insolently, shouting at the top of his voice: ‘You should have given me a much warmer welcome. I shall tell King Chilperic what has happened. He will avenge this insult which has been done to me.' Then he walked into my oratory, without asking my permission, and recited first one verse, then another, then a third. He began to say the morning prayer and went right on to the end. When he had finished he picked up his cross and went away again. He spoke the language of the common people, his accent was poor and the words he used vulgar. It was not easy to follow what he was trying to say. He made his way to Paris, where he arrived just as public Rogations were being celebrated, as the custom is before the feast of our Lord’s Ascension. As Bishop Ragnemod was processing to the holy places with his flock, this man put in an appearance with his cross, wearing his strange clothes, which the people had never seen before. He gathered round him a mob of ruffians and peasant-women, formed up his own procession, and prepared to visit the holy places with his own crowd of followers. As soon as he perceived this, the Bishop sent his archdeacon with a message. ‘If you have some holy relics to show me,’ he was to say, ‘deposit them for the time being in the church, and celebrate these holy days with us. When the feast is over, go on your way.’ The man paid no attention to what the archdeacon was saying, but began to curse the Bishop and insult him. Ragnemod realized that he was an impostor and had him locked up in a cell. His stock in trade was examined. He carried with him a big bag filled with the roots of various plants; in it, too, were moles’ teeth, the bones of mice, bears’ claws and bear’s fat. The Bishop had all this thrown into the river, for he recognized it as witchcraft. The man’s cross was taken away from him and Bishop Ragnemod ordered that he should be expelled from the Paris region. The only result was that the fellow made a new cross and began to carry on with the same practices as before. He was seized by the archdeacon, who had him chained up and then committed him to prison.

Just about this time I had occasion to come to Paris myself and I was put up in the church-house of Saint Julian the martyr. The very next night this poor wretch broke out of his prison and, with his chains wrapped round him, made his way to Saint Julian’s church, where he collapsed on the stone floor on the exact spot where I was due to stand. Exhausted and sodden with wine, he fell asleep where he lay. In the middle of the night I got up to say my prayers to God, quite unaware of what had happened. There I found him sleeping. He smelt so foul that compared with the stench which rose from him the noisome fetor of lavatories and sewers quite pales into insignificance. I was quite unable to step into the church for this odour. One of the junior clergy ventured forward holding his nose and tried to rouse the man. He was unable to do so, for the poor wretch was completely drunk. Four other priests went up to him, lifted him up in their hands and threw him into a corner of the church. Water was brought, the stone floor was washed clean and then strewn with sweet-smelling herbs, and so eventually I came in to perform the office. Even my singing failed to wake him. When daylight returned to the world and the sun’s bright lamp climbed up the sky, I handed the man back to Bishop Ragnemod and asked that he might be pardoned. There were a number of bishops in Paris for a council-meeting, and when we sat down to supper I told this tale. I gave orders that the man should appear before us, so that I could tell him what I thought of him. As he stood there, Amelius, Bishop of Bigorra, looked him up and down and recognized him as one of his own servants who had run away. He forgave him all that he had done and took him back home with him. There are quite a number of these people who go in for impostures of this sort and keep on leading the common folk astray. In my opinion it is of them that Our Lord Himself speaks in the Gospel when He says that in later times ‘there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect’. That is enough of this sort of thing. I must now return to my proper subject.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 418-420. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 484-486.

History

Evidence ID

E02332

Saint Name

Vincent, deacon and martyr of Saragossa and Valencia, ob. c. 305 : S00290 Felix, martyr of Gerona (Spain), ob 303/312 : S00408 Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours (Gaul), ob. 397 : S00050 Julian, martyr of Brioude (Gaul), ob. late 3rd/early 4th c.

Saint Name in Source

Vincentius Felix Martinus Iulianus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

587

Evidence not after

594

Activity not before

578

Activity not after

588

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

  • Procession

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Prayer/supplication/invocation

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Scepticism/rejection of specific relics

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people Ecclesiastics - bishops Crowds Slaves/ servants

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic Bodily relic - bones and teeth Privately owned relics Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries Ampullae, eulogiai, tokens

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Crosses

Source

Gregory of Tours wrote the Histories (Historiae) during his episcopate in Tours (573–594). They constitute the longest and most detailed historical work of the post-Roman West. Gregory's focus is Gaul under its Frankish kings, above all the territories of Tours and (to a lesser extent) Clermont, where he had been born and brought up. Much of his work tells of the years when, as bishop of an important see, he was himself centrally involved in Frankish politics. The Histories are often wrongly referred to as a History of the Franks. Although the work does contain a history of the rulers of Francia, it also includes much hagiographical material, and Gregory himself gave it the simple title the 'ten books of Histories' (decem libri historiarum), when he produced a list of his own writings (Histories 10.31). The Histories consist of ten books whose scope and contents differ considerably. Book 1 skims rapidly through world history, with biblical and secular material from the Creation to the death in AD 397 of Martin of Tours (Gregory’s hero and predecessor as bishop). It covers 5596 years. In Book 2, which covers 114 years, the focus moves firmly into Gaul, covering the years up to the death of Clovis in 511. Books 3 and 4, which cover 37 and 27 years respectively, then move fairly swiftly on, closing with the death of king Sigibert in 575. With Book 5, through to the final Book 10, the pace slows markedly, and the detail swells, with only between two and four years covered in each of the last six books, breaking off in 591. These books are organised in annual form, based on the regnal years of Childebert II (r. 575-595/6). There continues to be much discussion over when precisely Gregory wrote specific parts of the Histories, though there is general agreement that none of it was written before 575 and, of course, none of it after Gregory's death, which is believed to have occurred in 594. Essentially, scholars are divided over whether Gregory wrote the Histories sequentially as the years from 575 unfolded, with little or no revision thereafter, or whether he composed the whole work over the space of a few years shortly before his death and after 585 (see Murray 2015 for the arguments on both sides). For an understanding of the political history of the time, and Gregory's attitude to it, precisely when the various books were written is of great importance; but for what he wrote about the saints, the precise date of composition is of little significance, because Gregory's attitude to saints, their relics and their miracles did not change significantly during his writing-life. We have therefore chosen to date Gregory's writing of our entries only within the broadest possible parameters: with a terminus post quem of 575 for the early books of the Histories, and thereafter the year of the events described, and a terminus ante quem of 594, set by Gregory's death. (Bryan Ward-Perkins, David Lambert) For general discussions of the Histories see: Goffart, W., The Narrators of Barbarian History (A.D. 550–800): Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Bede, and Paul the Deacon (Princeton, 1988), 119–127. Murray, A.C., "The Composition of the Histories of Gregory of Tours and Its Bearing on the Political Narrative," in: A.C. Murray (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden and Boston, 2015), 63–101. Pizarro, J.M., "Gregory of Tours and the Literary Imagination: Genre, Narrative Style, Sources, and Models in the Histories," in: Murray, A Companion to Gregory of Tours, 337–374.

Discussion

Interestingly, both Gregory of Tours and Bishop Ragnemod of Paris were initially uncertain as to the credentials of this unnamed false holy man, and over the genuineness of his relics, which both bishops were initially happy to treat as potentially genuine. Only when the 'imposter' began to behave arrogantly towards the bishops, was he exposed as bogus and his relics destroyed. The church of Julian was located near the south gate of Paris (Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1976, 208-209; Duval et al. 1992, 123).

Bibliography

Edition: Krusch, B., and Levison, W., Gregorii episcopi Turonensis Libri historiarum X (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum I.1; 2nd ed.; Hannover, 1951). Translation: Thorpe, L., Gregory of Tours, The History of the Franks (Penguin Classics; London, 1974). Further reading: Duval, N. et al., "Paris," in: N. Gauthier and J.-Ch. Picard (eds.), Topographie chrétienne des cités de la Gaule des origines au milieu du VIIIe siècle, vol. 8: Province ecclésiastique de Sens (Lungdunensis Senonia) (Paris, 1992), 97-129. Murray, A.C., "The Composition of the Histories of Gregory of Tours and Its Bearing on the Political Narrative", in: A.C. Murray (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden-Boston 2015), 63-101. Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., Les monuments religieux de la Gaule d'après les œuvres de Grégoire de Tours (Paris, 1976).

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