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E02337: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (9.21), mentions the piety and charity of *Guntram (king of the Franks, ob. 592, S01207). Gregory has heard of a boy healed with threads from Guntram's cloak, and himself has heard demons within the possessed acknowledge Guntram's power; AD 561/588. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 588/594.

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posted on 05.02.2017, 00:00 by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 9.21

Ipse autem rex, ut saepe diximus, in elymosinis magnus, in vigiliis atque ieiuniis prumptus erat. Nam tunc ferebatur, Masiliam a luae inguinaria valde vastare et hunc morbum usque ad Lugdunensim vicum Octavum nomine fuisse caeleriter propalatum. Sed rex acsi bonus sacerdus providens remedia, qua cicatrices peccatoris vulgi mederentur, iussit omnem populum ad eclesiam convenire et rogationes summa cum devotione celebrare et nihil aliud in usu vescendi nisi panem ordeacium cum aqua munda adsumi, vigiliisque adesse instanter omnes iobet. Quod eo tempore ita gestum est. Per triduum enim ipsius elimosinis largius solito praecurrentibus, ita de cuncto populo formidabat, ut iam tunc non rex tantum, sed etiam sacerdus Domini putaretur, totam spem suam in Domini miseratione transfundens et in ipso iactans cogitationes, quae ei superveniebant, a quo eas effectui tradi tota fidei integritate putabat.

Nam caelebre tunc a fidelibus ferebatur, quod mulier quaedam, cuius filius quartano tibo gravabatur et in strato anxius decubabat, accessit inter turbas populi usque ad tergum regis, abruptisque clam regalis indumenti fimbriis, in aqua posuit filioque bibendum dedit; statimque, restincta febre, sanatus est. Quod non habetur a me dubium, cum ego ipse saepius larvas inergia famulante nomen eius invocantes audieram ac criminum propriorum gesta, virtute ipsius discernente, fatere.

'As I have often told you, King Guntram was well known for his charity and much given to vigils and fasting. At this time it was reported that Marseilles was suffering from a severe epidemic of swelling in the groin and that this disease had quickly spread to Saint-Symphorien-d’Ozon, a village near Lyons. Like some good bishop providing the remedies by which the wounds of a common sinner might be healed, King Guntram ordered the entire people to assemble in church and Rogations to be celebrated there with great devotion. He then commanded that they should eat and drink nothing else but barley bread and pure water, and that all should be regular in keeping the vigils. His orders were obeyed. For three days his own alms were greater than usual, and he seemed so anxious about all his people that he might well have been taken for one of our Lord’s bishops, rather than for a king. He put his hope in the compassion of our Lord, directing all his prayers towards Him, for through His agency he believed with perfect faith that his wishes would be realized.

The faithful had a story which they used to tell about Guntram. There was a woman whose son was seriously ill of a quartan ague. As the boy lay tossing on his bed, his mother pushed her way through the vast crowds and came up behind the King. Without his noticing she cut a few threads from his cloak. She steeped these threads in water and then gave the infusion to her son to drink. The fever left him immediately and he became well again. I do not doubt this (Quod non habetur a me dubium), for I have often heard men possessed of a demon call upon Guntram’s name when the evil spirit was in them, and, perceiving his miraculous powers (virtute ipsius discernente), confess their crimes.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 441-442. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 509-510; lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Guntram, king of the Franks, ob. AD 592 : S01207

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)



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 - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Distribution of alms

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Healing diseases and disabilities Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Other lay individuals/ people Women

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - cloth Eating/drinking/inhaling relics


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.


In this extraordinary passage, Gregory unambiguously presents Guntram as a man with very special holy powers, in other words a 'saint'. Not only does he record the story of the boy cured by threads from Guntram's cloak, a story that echoes that of Christ curing the woman with an issue of blood, but he also expressly states that he believes this story, and that he himself has often heard demons testifying to Guntram's supernatural power. There is nothing elsewhere in the Histories to suggest that Gregory believed Guntram to be a saint, indeed rather the reverse. This paradox has been much debated by historians, and it is not for us to resolve it here – if it can be resolved!


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: 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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