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E07784: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (10.1), mentions that in 590/591 his deacon returned from Rome with relics of unnamed saints, given him by Pope Gregory. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 590/594.

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posted on 12.09.2019, 00:00 by dlambert
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 10.1

Anno igitur quinto decimo Childebertni regis diaconus noster ab urbe Roma sanctorum cum pigneribus veniens, sic retulit ...

'In the fifteenth year of King Childebert’s reign, on his return from the city of Rome with relics of the saints, my deacon told me that ...'

Gregory goes on to relate how his deacon told him about floods and plague in Rome, the death of Pope Pelagius, and the election of Pope Gregory. After reproducing a sermon delivered by Pope Gregory after his election (E02397), Gregory states:

Ab hoc etiam diaconus noster reliquias sanctorum, ut diximus, sumpsit, dum adhuc in diaconato degeret.

'It was from him [Pope Gregory], while he was a deacon, that, as I have told you, my own deacon received the relics of the saints.'


Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 477, 481. Translation: Thorpe 1974, lightly adapted.

History

Evidence ID

E07784

Saint Name

Saints, unnamed : S00518

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

590

Evidence not after

594

Activity not before

590

Activity not after

590

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 - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries

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

The deacon, not mentioned by name here, is named elsewhere by Gregory as Agiulf (Life of the Fathers 8.6, E00065). Gregory gives an account in Glory of the Martyrs 82 (E00626) of how the relics saved the ship on which Agiulf was travelling from Ostia to Marseille when it was threatened by shipwreck. In the Glory of the Martyrs passage, the relics are specified as belonging to the Apostles, and the Roman martyrs Laurence (S00037), Chrysanthus and Daria (S00306), and Iohannes and Paulus (S00384). In the Histories the purpose of Agiulf's journey to Rome is only mentioned in passing, to introduce the information he brought back, primarily about the election of Pope Gregory and Gregory's character, followed by a sermon preached by Gregory after his election (E02397).

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: 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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