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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity


from its origins to circa AD 700, across the entire Christian world


Gregory of Tours, in his Miracles of Martin (1.11), recounts how Chararic, a king of Galicia (north-west Spain), converted from Arianism when his servants brought relics (a silk cloth placed on the tomb) of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) to Galicia, in 550/559, most probably in 556. *Martin (bishop of Braga, ob. 580 AD, S01176) arrived in Galicia on the same day as the relics. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 573/576.

Evidence ID

E02847

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory of Tours

Gregory of Tours, Miracles of Martin (Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi) 1.11

Chararici cuiusdam regis Galliciae filius graviter aegrotabat, qui tale taedium ineurrerat, ut solo spiritu palpitaret. Pater autem eius faetidae se illius Arrianae sectae una cum incolis loci subdiderat. Sed et regio illa plus solito, quam aliae provintiae, a lepra sordebat. Cumque rex videret, urgueri filium in extremis, dicit suis: 'Martinus ille, quem in Galliis dicunt multis virtutibus effulgere, cuius, quaeso, religionis vir fuerit, enarrate?' Cui aiunt: 'Catholicae fidei populum pastorali cura in corpore positus gubernavit, adserens, Filium cum Patre et sancto Spiritu aequali substantia vel omnipotentia venerari; sed et nunc caeli sede locatus, assiduis beneficiis non cessat plebi propriae provideri'.

'The son of Chararic, a king in Galicia, was seriously ill and had fallen into such weakness that he moved only with his breathing. But his father had subjected himself and the inhabitants of the region to that disgusting sect of Arianism. This region also was afflicted with more leprosy than was usual in other provinces. When the king saw that his son was pushed to his last moments, he said to his servants: “Some say that Martin is distinguished by his many miracles in Gaul. Tell me, I ask, what was that man’s religion?” They said to him: “While he was alive in his body, he governed his people with pastoral care in the Catholic faith, and he declared that the Son was venerated with the Father and the Holy Spirit because of his equal substance and omnipotence. But now, although living in the heavenly abode, he does not cease to care for his own people with his constant favors.”'

Chararic ordered men to bring gifts to Martin's church. They arrived in Tours and prayed at Martin's tomb, but the boy was not cured. The men returned and told the king that they had seen many miracles at the tomb of Martin.

At ille intellegens, non ante sanari posse filium, nisi aequalem cum Patre crederet Christum, in honorem beati Martini fabricavit miro opere eclesiam, expeditamque, proclamat: 'Si suscipere mereor viri iusti reliquias, quodcumque praedicaverint sacerdotes, credam'. Et sic iterum suos dirigit maiori cum munere. Qui venientes ad beatum locum, reliquias postulabant. Cumque eis offerrentur ex consuetudine, dixerunt: 'Non ita faciemus, sed nobis, quaesumus, licentia tribuatur ponendi quae exinde iterum adsumamus'. Tunc partem pallii sirici pensatam super beatum sepulchrum posuerunt, dicentes: 'Si invenimus gratiam coram expetito patrono, quae posuimus plus in sequenti pensabunt, eruntque nobis in benedictione quaesita per fidem'. Vigilata ergo una nocte, facto mane, quae posucrant pensitabant. In quibus tanta beati viri infusa est gratia, ut tam diu elevarent in sublimi aeream libram, quantum habere poterat quo ascenderet momentana.

'But the king perceived that his son could not be cured until he believed that Christ was equal with the Father. He constructed a church of marvelous workmanship in honor of the blessed Martin, and upon its completion he announced: 'If I am considered worthy to receive relics of this just man, I will believe whatever the bishops have proclaimed.' And so he again sent his messengers with a larger gift. They came to the blessed spot (at Tours) and asked for relics. When relics were as usual offered to them, they said: 'We won't do it this way; we ask that instead permission be given us to place [on the tomb] something we might later take from it.' Then they weighed a piece of a silk cloak, placed it on the blessed tomb, and said: 'If we have found favor before the patron whom we have sought, the [silk cloak] that we have placed [on the tomb] will weigh more tomorrow, and what we sought in faith will be a blessing for us.' Then they kept vigils during the night, and at daybreak they weighed what they had placed [on the tomb]. So much favor from the blessed man had been soaked into these relics that for a long time they raised the bronze weight in the air as far as the scale could have [leeway] to ascend.'

When these relics (reliquiae) were held up, prisoners in the city jail heard men chanting Psalms. Being informed that relics of Martin were being sent to Galicia, they called upon Martin to free them. This happened and, weeping, the prisoners kissed the relics (osculantes flendo beatas reliquias). When they were carried to Galicia, the sea was calm and their voyage was protected. Martin [later bishop of Braga] entered the port in Galicia on the same day as the relics.

Quae pignora cum summa veneratione suscipientes, fidem miraculis firmant. Nam filius regis, amissa omni aegritudine, sanus properat ad occursum. Beatus autem Martinus sacerdotalis gratiae accepit principatum. Rex unitatem Patris et Filii et Spiritus sancti confessus, cum omni domo sua crysmatus est. Squalor leprae a populo pellitur, et omnes infirmi salvantur, nec umquam ibi usque nunc super aliquem leprae morbus apparuit.

'The relics that they received with great veneration strengthened their faith with miracles. For after his illness vanished entirely, the king’s son hurried to meet them. Then the blessed Martin [of Braga] accepted the sovereignty of episcopal grace. The king confessed the unity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and was baptized along with his entire household. The people were freed from loathsome leprosy, and all ill people were cured; to the present day the disease of leprosy has never again appeared on anyone there.'

Text: Krusch 1969, 144-146. Translation: Van Dam 1993, 211-213. Summary: Katarzyna Wojtalik.

Liturgical Activities

Chant and religious singing

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)
Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Rejection, Condemnation, Sceptisism

Uncertainty/scepticism/rejection of a saint

Non Liturgical Activity

Oral transmission of saint-related stories
Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings
Construction of cult buildings
Prayer/supplication/invocation
Vigils
Visiting graves and shrines
Vow

Miracles

Miracle after death
Punishing miracle
Miracles causing conversion
Healing diseases and disabilities
Freeing prisoners, exiles, captives, slaves
Miraculous protection - of people and their property

Relics

Contact relic - cloth
Transfer, translation and deposition of relics
Touching and kissing relics
Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family
Heretics
Slaves/ servants
Other lay individuals/ people
The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves)
Children

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's
Miracles of Martin (full title Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi, 'Books of the Miracles of Saint Martin the Bishop'), consists of four books of miracles, 207 chapters in all, effected by Martin, primarily at his grave and shrine in Tours. Most of them occurred at the time of the saint's festivals, on 4 July and 11 November. Gregory tried to record the miracles in chronological order, so historians have been able to calculate quite precisely the dates of the events and miracles mentioned in the work. This fairly precise chronology has enabled scholars to determine the dates of completion of each book. There have been three main dating schemes proposed for the composition of the four books. The oldest was suggested by Monod in 1872, another by Krusch in 1885, and then one by Van Dam in 1993 (for fuller discussion, see Shaw 2015, 103-105). Their datings of the individual books do not vary substantially, and in our entries we have given only those of Van Dam. Shaw 2015 convincingly demolishes an earlier theory, that Gregory wrote the Miracles in two distinct stages: a first stage that was written during a particular period, and a second stage in the early 590s, in which Gregory revised the whole work.

Book 1, with 40 chapters, was written between 573 and 576. In the prologue, Gregory mentions that he started writing after he became bishop of Tours in August 573. Book 1 must have been completed by 576, since Venantius Fortunatus in a letter to Gregory of that year referred to it (
Epistula ad Gregorium 2, prefatory letter to Fortunatus' Life of Martin, MGH Auct. ant. 4.1, p. 293).

Book 2 consists of 60 chapters. It must have been finished before November 581, because the last miracles it mentions occurred in November 580, while the first ones recorded in Book 3 happened in November 581. Using the same methodology, the completion of Book 3, which also covers 60 chapters, can be dated between 587 and July 588.

Book 4, which consists of 47 chapters, seems never to have been completed, presumably because of Gregory’s death. There are two main arguments in support of the idea that it is unfinished. Firstly, Book 4 has no conclusion and no tidy number of chapters, while each of Books 1 to 3 has these elements. Secondly, the last story recorded in Book 4 is not about Gregory himself, unlike the final stories of Books 2 and 3.

Book 1 covers miracles that occurred before Gregory’s episcopate in Tours. The next three books are a running chronicle of Martin’s miracles under Gregory’s episcopate. Some of the miracles are recorded in very summary form, while others are much more elaborately presented: because of this, it has been argued that Gregory first jotted down notes, and only subsequently gave the stories full literary treatment (which in some cases, he was never able to do).

The three completed books of the
Miracles of Martin were probably released as they were completed, rather that published together. In this sense they are the exception amongst Gregory's writings, since the rest of his work was not finally completed and seems to have been unpublished at the time of his death.

For discussion of the work, see:
Krusch, B. (ed.), Gregorii episcopi Turonensis miracula et opera minora (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 1,2; 2nd ed.; Hannover, 1969), 2–4.

Monod, G.,
Études critiques sur les sources de l’histoire mérovingienne, 1e partie (Paris, 1872), 42–45.

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.

Van Dam, R.,
Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, 1993), 142–146, 199.


Discussion

Chararic, king of the Sueves, is known only through this passage in the Miracles of Martin.


Bibliography

Editions and translations:
Krusch, B. (ed.), Gregorii episcopi Turonensis miracula et opera minora (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 1,2; 2nd ed.; Hannover, 1969), 134–211.

Van Dam, R. (trans.),
Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, 1993), 200–303.

de Nie, G. (ed. and trans.),
Lives and Miracles: Gregory of Tours (Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 39; Cambridge MA, 2015), 421–855.

Further reading:
Murray, A.C. (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden-Boston, 2015).

Shanzer, D., "So Many Saints – So Little Time ... the
Libri Miraculorum of Gregory of Tours," Journal of Medieval Latin 13 (2003), 19–63.


Record Created By

Katarzyna Wojtalik

Date Last Modified

05/07/2020

Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00050Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397MartinusCertain
S01176Martin, bishop of Braga, ob. 580 ADMartinusCertain


Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Katarzyna Wojtalik, Cult of Saints, E02847 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E02847