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History of the Christian Church, Volume IV: Mediaeval Christianity. A.D. 590-1073.
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§ 154. St. Gregory of Tours.


I. St. Georgius Florentius Gregorius: Opera omnia, in Migne, Tom. LXXI. (reprint of Ruinart’s ed. Paris, 1699). The best critical edition of Gregory’s great work, Historiae Francorum libri decem, is by W. Arndt and Br. Krusch. Hannover, 1884 (Gregorii Turonensis opera pars I. in “Scriptorum rerum Merovingicarum,” T. I., pars I. in the great “Monumenta Germaniae historica” series), and of his other works that by H. L. Bordier, Libri miraculorum aliaque opera minora, or with the French title, Les livres des miracles et autres opuscules de Georges Florent Grégoire, evêque de Tours. Paris, 1857- 64, 4 vols., of which the first three have the Latin text and a French translation on opposite pages, and the last, containing the De cursu stellarum and the doubtful works, the Latin only. There are several translations of the Historia Francorum into French (e.g., by Guizot. Paris, 1823, new ed. 1861, 2 vols.; by H. L. Bordier, 1859–61, 2 vols. ), and into German (e.g., by Giesebrecht, Berlin, 1851, 2 vols., 2d ed., 1878, as part of Pertz, “Geschichtsschreiber der deutschen Vorzeit”). The De cursu stellarum was discovered and first edited by F. Hasse, Breslau, 1853.

II. The Lives of Gregory, by Odo of Cluny (d. 943, valuable, ) Migne, l.c., and by Joannes Egidius (Jean Gilles of Tours, 16th cent., of small account) are given by Bordier, l.c. IV. 212–237. Modern biographies and sketches of Gregory are: C. J. Kries: De Gregorii Turonensis Episcopi vita et scriptis. Breslau, 1839. J. W. Löbell: Gregor von Tours. Leipzig, 1839, 2d ed. 1869. Gabriel Monod: Grégorie de Tours, in Tome III.” Bibliothèque de l’École des hautes études.” Paris, 1872 (pp. 21–146). Cf. Du Pin, V. 63. Ceillier, XI, 365–399. Hist. Lit. de la France, III. 372–397. Teuffel, pp. 1109–10. Wattenbach, I. 70 sqq. Ebert, I. 539–51. L. von Ranke: Weltgeschichte, 4ter Theil, 2te Abtheilung (Leipzig, 1883), pp. 328–368, mainly a discussion of the relation of Gregory’s Historia to Fredegar’s Historia Epitomata and to the Gesta regum Francorum. He maintains that they are independent. Cf. W. Arndt’s preface (30pp.) to edition mentioned above.


Georgius Florentius, or as he called himself on his consecration Gregorius, after his mother’s grand-father, the sainted bishop of Langres, was born in Arverna (now Clermont),998998   001 The birth-place of Pascal, in the department of Puy de Dome, 220 miles S. by E. from Paris. the principal city of Auvergne, Nov. 30., 538. His family was of senatorial rank on both sides, and its position and influence are attested by the number of bishops that belonged to it. His father (Florentius) apparently died early, and his mother (Armentaria) removed to Burgundy, her native country, but his uncle Gallus, bishop of Auvergne, who died in 554, and Avitus the successor of Gallus, cared for his education. He entered the church in discharge of a vow made at the shrine of St. Illidius, the patron saint of Arverna, during a severe and supposed fatal illness. In 563 he was ordained deacon by Avitus, and served in some ecclesiastical capacity at the court of Sigebert king of Austrasia, until in 573, at the unanimous request of the clergy and people of that city, the king appointed him bishop of Tours. Although loath to take so prominent and responsible a position, he at last consented, was consecrated by Egidius, archbishop of Rheims, and welcomed by Fortunatus in an official, which yet had more real feeling in it than such productions usually have, and was a true prophecy of Gregory’s career.

Tours was the religious centre of Gaul. The shrine of St. Martin was the most famous in the land and so frequented by pilgrims that it was the source of an immense revenue. In Alcuin’s day (eighth century) the monastery of Tours owned 20,000 serfs, and was the richest in the kingdom. Tours was also important as the frontier city of Austrasia, particularly liable to attack. The influences which secured the position to Gregory were probably personal. Several facts operated to bring it about. First, that all but five of the bishops of Tours had been members of his family (Euphronius whom he succeeded was his mother’s cousin), and further, that he was in Tours on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Martin to recover his health about the time of Euphronius’ death, and by his life there secured the love of the people. Add to this his travels, his austerities, his predominant love for religion, and his election is explained.999999    Monod, p. 29. Gregory found the position no sinecure. War broke out between Sigebert and the savage Chilperic, and Tours was taken by the latter in 575. Confusion and anarchy prevailed. Churches were destroyed, ecclesiastics killed. Might made right, and the weak went to the wall. But in that dark and tempestuous time Gregory of Tours shines like a beacon light. The persecuted found in him a refuge; the perplexed a guide; the wicked king a determined opponent. Vigilant, sleepless, untiring in his care for Tours he averted an attempt to tax it unjustly; he maintained the sanctuary rights of St. Martin against all avengers; and he put an end to partisan strifes. His influence was exerted in the neighboring country. Such was his well earned repute for holiness founded upon innumerable services that the lying accusation of Leudastes at the council of Braine (580) excited popular indignation and was refuted by his solemn declaration of innocence.10001000    He was charged with having accused Fredegund wife of Chilperic, of adultery with Bertrand, bishop of Bordeaux. Hist. Franc. V. 49, (Migne, l.c., col. 364).

In 584 Chilperic died. Tours then fell to Guntram, king of Orleans, until in 587 it was restored to Childebert, the son of Sigebert. The last nine years of Gregory’s life were comparatively quiet. He enjoyed the favor of Guntram and Childebert, did much to beautify the city of Tours, built many churches, and particularly the church of St. Martin (590). But at length the time of his release came, and on Nov. 17, 594, he went to his reward. His saintship was immediately recognized by the people he had served, and the Latin Church formally beatified and canonized him. His day in the calendar is November l7.

The Works of Gregory were all produced while bishop. Their number attests his diligence, but their style proves the correctness of his own judgment that he was not able to write good Latin. Only one is of real importance, but that is simply inestimable, as it is the only abundant source for French history of the fifth and sixth centuries. It is the Ecclesiastical History of the Franks, in ten books,10011001    Historiae ecclesiasticae Francorum libri decem. Migne, LXXI. col. 159-572. begun in 576, and not finished until 592. By reason of it Gregory has been styled the Herodotus of France. It was his object to tell the history of his own times for the benefit of posterity, although he was aware of his own unfitness for the task. But like the chroniclers of the period he must needs begin with Adam, and it is not till the close of the first book that the history of Gaul properly begins. The last five books tell the story of the events in Gregory’s own life-time, and have therefore most value. Gregory is not a model historian, but when speaking of facts within his experience he is reliable in his statements, and impartial in his narrative, although partial in his judgments.

Gregory gives at the close of his Ecclesiastical History a catalogue of his writings, all of which have been preserved, with the exception of the commentary on the Psalms, of which only the preface and the titles of the chapters are now extant.10021002    X. xxxi. 19. Migne, col. 571-572. The complete list is as follows:10031003    Ibid. col. 705 sqq. The Miracles of St. Martin, in four books, begun in 574, finished 594; the miracles were recorded by direction of Gregory’s mother, who appeared to him in a vision; The Passion of St. Julian the Martyr, written between 582 and 586; The Martyr’s Glory, written about 586; The Confessor’s Glory, about 588; The Lives of the Fathers, written at different times and finished in 594. The last is the most interesting and important of these hagiographical works, which do not call for further mention.10041004    The dates given above are Monod’s, l.c. pp. 41-49. The Course of the Stars, or as Gregory calls it, The Ecclsiastical Circuit, is a liturgical work, giving the proper offices at the appearance of the most important stars.



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