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E02706: Gregory of Tours, in his Glory of the Confessors (78), recounts how plague threatened the city of Reims (north-east Gaul); the citizens kept vigils at the tomb of *Remigius (bishop of Reims, ob. c. 533, S00456); then took the cloth that covered his tomb and journeyed with it around the territory of the city; the plague spared Reims. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 587/588.

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posted on 14.04.2017, 00:00 by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Confessors 78

[This story is preceded by another miracle of Remigius - in which the saint strikes dead a man who had invaded the property of the church of Reims: E02705.]

Sed nec illud sileri placuit, quod illud gestum est tempore, eum lues inguinaria populum primae Germaniae devastaret. Cum autem omnes terrerentur huius cladis auditu, concurrit Remensium populus ad sancti sepulchrum, congruum huius causae flagitore remedium. Accensis cereis lichnisque non paucis, hymnis psalmisque caelestibus per totam excubat noctem. Mane autem facto, quid adhuc precatui desit, in tractatu rimatur; repperiunt etenim, revelante Deo, qualiter, oratione praemissa, adhuc maiori propugnaculo urbs propugnacula munirentur. Adsumpta igitur palla de beati sepulchro, conponunt in modum feretri; accensisque super cruces cereis atque cereferalibus, dant voces in canticis, circumeunt urbem cum vicis. Nec praetereunt ullum hospitium, quem non hac circuitione concludant. Quid plura? Non post multos dies fines huius civitatis lues adgreditur memorata. Verum tamen usque ad eum locum accedens, quo beati pignus accessit, et si constitutum cerneret terminum, intro ingredi non modo non est ausa, sed etiam quae in principio pervaserat huius virtutis repulsu reliquid.

'But it is proper not to be silent about what happened when the plague of the groin ravaged the people of First Germany. When everyone was terrified at hearing of this devastation, the people of Reims rushed to the tomb of the saint to request a remedy that was appropriate for the situation. After lighting many candles and lamps, they kept watch for the entire night with hymns and celestial psalms. At dawn they searched in a treatise for what was still missing from their request. By the revelation of God they discovered how, after first praying, they might fortify the defences of the city with a still more effective defence. They took the cloth covering (palla) of the tomb of the blessed Remigius and arranged it in the shape of a bier. With candleholders and candles burning above the crosses, they joined voices in chants and journeyed around the city as well as its villages. Nor did they omit any home that they did not include in their circuit. Why say more? Not many days later this plague approached the edges of the city. It advanced all the way to that spot where the relic of the blessed Remigius had gone, and whenever it recognised the boundary that had been set, it did not in any way dare to advance further. Because of the obstacle of his power the plague even left what it had previously invaded.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 345-346. Translation: Van Dam 2004, 59, modified
Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

Categories

Keywords

History

Evidence ID

E02706

Saint Name

Remigius, bishop of Reims : S00456

Saint Name in Source

Remigius

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

587

Evidence not after

588

Activity not before

543

Activity not after

543

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

  • Chant and religious singing

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Prayer/supplication/invocation

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Oil lamps/candles Precious cloths

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

It is unclear why Gregory refers to the Roman province of Germania Prima, since Reims was in Belgica Secunda. This plague that is at the centre of this story is not dated by Gregory, but it may well have been the 'Justinianic' plague, that reached Gaul in 543.

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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Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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