Gregory of Tours, St.
GREGORY OF TOURS, ST.
Frankish historian, bishop of Tours from 573 to 594;b. Clermont-Ferrand, probably Nov. 30, 538; d. Tours, Nov. 17, 594. Georgius Florentius Gregorius, the son of Florentius and Armentaria, was related through his mother to Bps. St. Gregory of Langres, St. Tetricus of Langres, St. Nicetius of Lyons, and St. Euphronius of Tours, and through his father to Bp. St. Gallus of Clermont. After Florentius's death Gregory's mother transferred to the vicinity of Cavaillon and Gregory's education was undertaken by his grand-uncle, the future Bishop Nicetius, and by his uncle, Bishop Gallus, and the latter's archdeacon, (St.) Avitus, subsequently bishop of Clermont. Having been ordained to the diaconate apparently at Clermont under Bishop Cautinus (d. 571) in 563, Gregory was chosen bishop of Tours following Euphronius's death in 573 and, after a 19-day vacancy, was consecrated by Bp. Egidius of Reims. Political control of Tours lay first with King Sigebert of Austrasia (561–575), then, during (561–584), with Chilperic of Nuestria, thereafter with Guntram of Burgundy (561–593), who in November 587 relinquished the territory to Childebert II of Austrasia (575–595); although it was Sigebert who authorized Gregory's consecration, Gregory was on intimate terms with all of these rulers.
Gregory assisted at episcopal synods held at Paris in 577, at Berny in 580, and at Poitiers in 590 (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Concilia, I, 151,152,175–6). In his diocese, Gregory put an end to murderous feuds (Hist. Franc. 7.47), obtained relief from excessive taxation (Hist. Franc 9.30), rebuilt the Tours cathedral, and blessed many churches (Hist. Franc. 10.31; see also Fortunatus, Carm. 10.5, 6. Gregory's record of these activities appears in the epilogue to his History, which he composed in the 21st year of his own episcopacy and the fifth year of Pope Gregory I's pontificate. The Vita Gregorii, a tenth-century biography, testifies to the veneration that his name evoked in the Middle Ages.
The following literary works of Gregory are extant: ten books of Histories, seven of Miracles, the Lives of the Fathers, a commentary on the Psalms, and a treatise on Church Offices (de cursibus … ecclesiasticis ). The first two books of his Historia Francorum relate events from Creation to a.d. 511; the remaining eight give the story of the Franks to 591. Books 1–4 were completed by 575; Books 5–6, between 580–584; Books 7–l10, in 584–591, with subsequent revision of Books 1–6 and an epilogue (10.31) added in 594. The seven books of Miracles, Librii IV de virtutibus s. Martini, fashioned from 574–575 to 591–594, relate the prodigies attributed to the patron of Tours; and the Liber de passione et virtutibuss. Iuliani reports the alleged wonders of the fourth-century martyr of Brioude. Its final chapter (50) was penned after 590. The Liber in gloria martyrum describes in 106 chapters the miracles worked by Our Lord, His mother, the Apostles, and the Gallic martyrs. The Liber in gloria confessorum gives stories of saints, mostly Gallic; its present preface dates from 593–594, though an earlier prologue (ch. 44) may belong to 584. The Lives of the Fathers in the Liber vitae patrum seems to have been composed originally as individual biographies. The concluding 20th chapter of the collection mentions the death of Leobard, which occurred on Jan. 18, 593. Gregory's In Psalterii tractatum commentarius, which is fragmentary, and De cursu stellarum ratio, with its catalog of the world's wonders and a method for determining the night hours of the Divine Office, belong to his episcopal period.
Gregory states that, with the aid of a Syrian, he had made a Latin version of the legend of the seven sleepers of ephesus (Glor. Mart. 94). This translation is extant as Passio ss. martyrum VII dormientium. F. Dvornik believes the Liber de miraculis b. Andreae apostoli was written by Gregory in 591–592 as a Latin adaptation of a Greek original; similarly, the De miraculis b. Thomae apostoli may be a work of Gregory.
Without the bishop of Tours, our knowledge of sixth-century Gaul would be incalculably poorer. In large measure, our insight into the history, the geography, the language, and the religion of the period depends on him. While his historical methods are faulty and his credulity concerning the saints is naive, his conviction as to the centrality of the Church for human progress still speaks eloquently to us.
Feast: Nov. 17.
Bibliography: Opera in Patrologia Latina 71; Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 1; 7:707–775; The History of the Franks, ed. and tr. o. m. dalton, 2v. (Oxford 1927); Selections from the Minor Works, tr. w. c. mcdermott (Philadelphia 1949); Glory of the Confessors, tr. r. van dam (Liverpool 1988). c. lelong, Grégoire de Tours: sa vie et son oeuvre (Chambray-lès-Tours 1995), selected texts. Literature. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie 6.2:1711–53. b. altaner, Pathology, tr. h. graef from 5th German edition (New York 1960) 571–572. s. dill, Roman Society in Gaul in the Merovingian Age (London 1926). s. h. macgonagle, The Poor in Gregory of Tours (New York 1936). o. chadwick, "Gregory of Tours and Gregory the Great," Journal of Theological Studies 50 (1949) 38–49. h. g. j. beck, The Pastoral Care of Souls in South-East France during the Sixth Century (Analecta Gregoriana 51; 1950). j. m. wallace-hadrill, "The Work of Gregory of Tours in the Light of Modern Research," Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 1 (1951) 25–45. m. manitius, Geschichte der lateinischen Literatur des Mittelalters 1:216–223. g. de nie, Views from a Many-Windowed Tower: Studies of Imagination in the Works of Gregory of Tours (Amsterdam 1987). a. h. b. brereukelaar, Historiography and Episcopal Authority in Sixth-Century Gaul: The Histories of Gregory of Tours Interpreted in Their Historical Context (Göttingen 1994). Grégoire de Tours et l'espace gaulois, Proceedings of Intl. Congress, 3– November 5, 1994, eds. n. gauthier and h. galiniÉ (Tours 1997). j. schmidt, Grégoire de Tours: historien des Francs (Monaco 1998). m. heinzelmann, Gregory of Tours: History and Society in the Sixth Century, tr. c. carroll (New York 2001). f. dvornik, The Idea of Apostolicity in Byzantium and the Legend of the Apostle Andrew (Cambridge, Mass. 1958) 183–186, 192. g. quispel, "An Unknown Fragment of the Acts of Andrew," Vigiliae christiannae 10 (1956) 129–148. h. delehaye, "Les Recueils antiques de miracles des saints," Analecta Bollandiana 43 (1925) 305–325. p. r. l. brown, Relics and Social Status in the Age of Gregory of Tours (Reading 1977). w. a. goffart, The Narrators of Barbarian History (Princeton, N.J. 1988).
[h. g. j. beck]