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E02575: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Confessors (22), recounts how *Maximus (abbot in Chinon, mid-5th c., S01253) was saved from drowning in the Saône river; came to Chinon (north-west Gaul) and founded a monastery; during a siege by Egidius, successfully prayed for a supply of water; was buried in Chinon, where the sick are cured at his tomb. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 587/588.

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posted on 17.03.2017, 00:00 by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Confessors 22


Gregory of Tours recounts how he learned of Maximus through reading a verse Life of the saint:

ut liber vitae eius docet, quam versu conscriptam legimus, nostri fuit Martini discipulus

'As the book of his life, which I read written in verse, teaches us, he was a student of our Martin [= *Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050]'

Maximus became a monk in Lyon. However, deciding to return home he was nearly drowned in the Saône:

Denique dum Ararem fluvium transire cupiret, nave impleta dimergitur, ac ipse sacerdos pelago operitur, habens ad collum cum euangeliorum libro ministerium cotidianum, id est patenulam parvam cum calice. Sed pietos divina non perferens perire quod suum est, ita de hoc periculo, Domino iubente, restitutus est litori, ut nec vitae damna perferret nec rerum detrimenta lugeret.

'Then while he was intending to cross the Saône river, his boat was swamped and sank, and the priest was covered by the water. Around his neck he had a book of the Gospels and [the utensils for the celebration of] the daily liturgy, that is, a small paten and a chalice. But divine mercy did not allow what was its own to perish. At the command of the Lord Maximus was saved from this danger [and brought] to the bank, so that the Lord neither allowed the loss of a life nor mourned for the destruction of the liturgical utensils.'

Maximus came to Chinon and founded a monastery there. Once:

Quod castrum cum ab Egidio obsederetur, et populus pagi illius ibidem esset inclusus, hostis adversus effossum a latere montis puteum, quem obsessi ad usum habebant bibendi, obturants. Quod cum antedictus Dei famulus, qui tunc cum reliquis infra castri munitionem conclusus erat, cerneret videretque populum consumi sitis iniuria, orationem noctem tote fudit ad Dominum, ut respiciens populum hostes inprobos effugaret et non pateretur, eos sitis ardore consumi. Tunc, revelante sibi Spiritu sancto, ait ad plebem: 'Quisquis habet vasculum, eiciet foris in platea et deprecetur Dominum. Dabit enim vobis hodie largitas eius aquas in abundantiam, ut non deficiatis vos et parvuli vestri. Haec eo dicente, subito nubes texerunt caelum, et discendit imber magnus de caelo cum tonitruis et corruscationibus super castrum, duplum populis beneficium praebens, pluvia arcens sitim, fragoribus effugans hostem. Conpletaque sunt vasa omnium, et satiati sunt cuncti. Sicque obtentu sacerdotis fugatis adversariis, populus salvatus a castro discessit.

'Egidius besieged this village and the people of this region were shut up there, the hostile enemy blocked up a well that had been cut from the side of a mountain and that the besieged people used for drinking water. The aforementioned servant of God, who with the others was shut up within the fortifications of the village, learned of this. When he saw the people dying from devastating thirst, he prayed to the Lord for an entire night that the Lord look upon his people, scatter the wicked enemy, and not allow the people to die from a burning thirst. Then, at the revelation of the Holy Spirit, he said to the people: ‘Let whoever has a container place [it] outside in the street and let him pray to the Lord. For today he will give you his waters bestowed in abundance, so that you and your small children will not be lacking.’ As Maximus said this, suddenly clouds covered the sky and a heavy rain accompanied by thunder and lightning fell from the sky upon the village. The storm was doubly beneficial to the people, since it eliminated thirst with its rain and scattered the enemy with its crashing. Everyone’s containers were filled, and everyone was satisfied. After the enemy fled because of the plea of the priest, the people were saved and left the village.'

Maximus died in his monastery and was buried there. The sick are often cured at his tomb (Ad cuius sepulchrum saepius infirmi sanantur); Gregory then describes the specific cases of a slave boy and slave girl belonging to the church of Tours (ex familia eclesiae Turonicae).

Text: Krusch 1969, 311-312. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 19-20, lightly modified.

History

Evidence ID

E02575

Saint Name

Maximus, abbot in Chinon (north-west Gaul), ob. middle of 5th century AD : S01253

Saint Name in Source

Maximus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

587

Evidence not after

588

Activity not before

400

Activity not after

587

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 - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracles experienced by the saint Miraculous protection - of people and their property Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money) Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Children Soldiers Slaves/ servants

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Chalices, censers and other liturgical vessels

Source

Gregory, of a prominent Clermont family with extensive ecclesiastical connections, was bishop of Tours from 573 until his death (probably in 594). He 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. Gregory probably wrote the greater part of the Glory of the Confessors (Liber in Gloria Confessorum) between late 587 and mid-588, since in ch. 6 he tells us that he has already written three books on the miracles of Martin (and the last datable miracle in Book 3 of his Miracles of Martin occurred in November 587), while in ch. 93 he tells us that Charimeris, who became bishop of Verdun in 588, was 'now' a royal referendary (so not yet a bishop). It is, however, likely that Gregory was collecting and recording these stories throughout his life, and for our purposes precise dating is not of great importance, since Gregory's views on the role of saints and the correct ways to venerate them do not seem to have changed during his writing life. (On the dating of the work, see Van Dam 2004, xii; Shaw 2016, 105.) The last two chapters (109 and 110), in which divine punishment falls on avaricious merchants in a manner that is not focused on a particular 'confessor', do not sit comfortably with the rest of the work, and, even more tellingly, near the end there are three chapters with headings but no content (105, 106 and 107, E02777). Consequently Krusch suggested (and this hypothesis has been widely accepted) that the work was left in an incomplete state, its final completion and editing being prevented by Gregory's death. As Gregory himself makes clear in his Preface (where he lists his eight works of hagiography), the Glory of the Confessors (just like his Glory of the Martyrs) is not about the lives of his saints, but is a collection of their miracle-stories: 'This, the eighth [book], we have written on the miracles of Confessors' (Octavum hunc scribimus de miraculis confessorum). Occasionally we do learn something about the lives of the men and women that he includes, but for the most part we are just given their name and, sometimes, religious status ('bishop', 'abbot', 'hermit', or whatever) and a description of a miracle (or miracles) that Gregory attributes to them. The large majority of these miracles are posthumous (in Life of the Fathers 2.2 Gregory expresses a preference for posthumous miracles, over miracles in life, as reliable indicators of sanctity - see E00023). Elsewhere in his work (in the preface to his Life of Illidius, in Life of the Fathers), Gregory provides a definition of a 'confessor': someone who had taken up 'various crosses of abstinence' (diversas abstinentiae cruces) to live the Christian life. But here in Glory of the Confessors, the category is in practice much more broadly drawn, to include any individual able to effect a miracle, who wasn't a martyr; in many cases Gregory knew nothing about the life of the confessor, only about one or more miracles, for the most part posthumous and at the tomb. For Gregory, anyone with an attested miracle (he would, presumably, have said 'reliably attested') was a 'confessor' and could be included in this work. Consequently, a remarkable number of extremely shadowy figures feature. To take a few examples: a man buried in a tomb in Clermont, from which scrapings of dust cured people (ch. 35, E02595); a chaste but loving couple of Clermont, whose sarcophagi miraculously moved to be next to each other (ch. 31, E02583); and three priests of the village of Aire-sur-l'Ardour, whose graves were slowly rising out of the ground (ch. 51, E02640). In all of these cases, and several more besides, Gregory could not even put reliable names to the confessors concerned. Gregory's interest was not in the people, but in the miraculous that manifested itself around holy individuals: for instance, in ch.96 (E02755) he tells the story of a hermit whose only recorded miracle was his ability to cook his food over a blazing fire in a wooden pot; Gregory uses the story as an example of how God makes even the elements of nature obey the needs of the holy. Only occasionally does Gregory name his informants. But it is clear that many of his stories derived from his own observations in Clermont and Tours, and from what he heard from visitors to Tours, and on his own travels; Gregory had visited large numbers of the shrines he described, had venerated many of these saints' relics, and had even been a participant at a few of the events described. Because Gregory was so inclusive in those he ranked as 'confessors', his text is rich in evidence of cults emerging around some very obscure figures, as long as people (including Gregory) believed they had miraculous powers from their graves. In many cases these cults were probably short-lived; but in a few cases they appear to have become at least semi-institutionalised: for instance, two otherwise wholly unknown virgins, buried on a hill in the Touraine, persuaded a man to build a stone oratory over their graves, and also persuaded the then bishop of Tours to come and bless it (ch. 18, E02561), and a young girl of the Paris region, about whom nothing but her name and pious epitaph were known, acquired a considerable reputation as a healer (particularly of toothache), and again a stone oratory over her grave (ch. 103, E02767). Unlike the Glory of the Martyrs, which includes many martyrs from beyond Gaul, almost all the saintly figures in Glory of the Confessors are Gallic: the sole exceptions are, from Syria, Symeon the Stylite (ch. 26, E02579), and, from Italy, Eusebius of Vercelli and Paulinus of Nola (chs. 3 and 108, E02453 and E02778). Within Gaul, after miracles involving angels, Hilary of Poitiers and Eusebius of Vercelli (chs. 1-3), the confessors are bunched together by their city-territory, in other words where they were buried (which in almost all cases is also where the recorded miracles occurred). There is no logic to the order in which Gregory presented these cities, beyond the fact that he placed the two cities he knew most about, Tours (chs. 4-25) and Clermont (chs. 29-35) very close to the start. At the end of the book, from ch. 90, saints appear from city-territories that have already been covered earlier in the work (chs. 90 and 100, Bourges; ch. 96, Autun; chs. 101-102, Limoges; ch. 103, Paris; ch. 104, Poitiers) – the most likely explanation is that these are saints that Gregory added after he had written the greater part of the book. There are some digressions in the book, as we would expect in a work by the discursive Gregory – for instance, a miracle story of Martin set in Visigothic Spain (ch. 12) leads Gregory into two stories on the spiritual powerlessness of Arian priests (chs. 13 and 14) – but there are fewer digressions than in Gregory's parallel work, the Glory of the Martyrs. There is a good general discussion of Glory of the Confessors in Van Dam 2004, ix-xxi, and of Gregory's hagiography more widely in Shaw 2015. (Bryan Ward-Perkins)

Discussion

The verse Life of Maximus that Gregory read has not been preserved, and it is only through this chapter of the Glory of the Confessors that anything is known about him. The reference to an attack on Chinon by Egidius/Aegidius, a Roman warlord active in the 450s and 460s, offers an approximate date for Maximus' life. The reference to the curing at his shrine of two young slaves of the Church of Tours suggests that it owned property in the area.

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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