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E02595: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Confessors (34), tells the story of a tomb in the church of *Venerandus (bishop of Clermont, ob. 423, S01261) in Clermont (central Gaul): its lid was broken, revealing the intact body of an *Anonymous girl (S01262), which lay exposed for a year; the blind wife of Georgius, count of Clermont, regained her sight after seeing a vision in which she was told to cover the tomb, and did so; story set in the mid-6th c. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 587/588.

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posted on 23.03.2017, 00:00 by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Confessors 34

There were many tombs of holy men and ascetic women in a vaulted chamber (transvoluta cellula) in the church of Venerandus in Clermont; these were certainly Christian because they bore scenes of the miracles of Chrsit and his disciples. In the time of Georgius, count of Clermont, a section of the vaulting in the chamber fell on one of the sarcophagi and broke it, revealing the body of a girl. The entire body of and her white clothing were intact and undecayed. No one knew the name and the story of the girl. The body lay exposed for a one year and no one planned to cover the sarcophagus.

Contigite, ut uxor antedicti comitis viri post obitum graviter aegrotaret, ac diuturna valitudine obtenta, oculorum lumine multaretur. Quae laxato a febre, vocat medicos, diversa adhibet studia, largitur et praemia; sed nullis potuit modis ab eisdem elicere medellam, donec tandem aliquando pietas Domini commota respiceret. Apparuit enim ei persona quaedam per visum noctis, dicens: 'Si vis visioni praestinae restaurari, perge quantotius et requere lapidem mundum ac sarcofagum puellae quiescentis, quod in basilica sancti Venerandi detectum habetur, citius tege. Moxi, detectis visibus oculorum tuorum, clare cuncto prospicies. Quo facto, ut vas illud clausit operturio, protinus, apertis oculis, lumen recepit ex integro. Unde non ambigitur, esse eam nobilis meriti, quae talia praestare potuit aegrotanti.

'Then it happened that the wife of the aforementioned count [Georgius] became seriously ill after the death of her husband. After being gripped by this illness for a long time, she lost the sight of her eyes. Once she was freed from her fever, she summoned doctors, presented various requests, and offered rewards. But in no way could she receive a cure from them until finally the compassion of the Lord was motivated to look upon her. A person appeared to her in a vision during the night and said: ‘If you wish to be restored to your original sight, go as quickly as possible, find a clean stone, and quickly cover the sarcophagus of the girl who is at rest. This sarcophagus stands uncovered in the church of Venerandus. After the sight of your eyes has been uncovered, soon you will see everything clearly.’ When the woman had fulfilled this command by covering the tomb with a lid, immediately her eyes were opened and she received her sight anew. There is hence no doubt that this girl who could offer such benefits to an ill woman possessed outstanding merit.''

Text: Krusch 1969, 318-319. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 27-28.

History

Evidence ID

E02595

Saint Name

Venerandus, bishop in Clermont (central Gaul), ob. AD 423 : S01261 Anonymous girl, buried in the church on Venerandus in Clermont (central Gaul), ob. AD 423/538 : S01262

Saint Name in Source

Venerandus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

587

Evidence not after

588

Activity not before

500

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 - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Oral transmission of saint-related stories

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Destruction/desecration of saint's shrine

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Bodily incorruptibility

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Officials Ecclesiastics - bishops Women

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Precious material objects

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

This story is known only from this passage by Gregory. In the final sentence he expressly recognises her a 'saint', because she was able to cure the wife of the count, though he does not mention further veneration at her grave. Georgius was count Clermont probably in the mid-6th century (Van Dam, p. 28, note 39).

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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