Gregory of Tours' History of the Franks

  1. Visit of the king at Orleans
  2. How the bishops were presented to him and how he made ready a feast
  3. The singers and Mummolus's silver
  4. Praise of king Childebert
  5. The visions of Chilperic which the king and I saw
  6. Those whom I presented
  7. How bishop Palladius said mass
  8. Prodigies
  9. The oath given in behalf of Chilperic's son
  10. The bodies of Merovech and Clovis
  11. The doorkeepers and the killing of Boantus
  12. Bishop Theodore and the plague that visited Ratharius
  13. The embassy sent by Gunthram to Childebert
  14. Danger on the river
  15. Conversion of deacon Vulfilaic
  16. What he related of St. Martin's miracles
  17. The signs which appeared
  18. Childebert sends an army into Italy; the dukes and counts who are appointed or removed
  19. Killing of the abbot Daulfus
  20. Acts of the synod at Mâcon
  21. The court at Beslingen and the violation of sepulcher
  22. Death of the bishops and of Wandalinus
  23. Floods
  24. The islands of the sea
  25. The island in which blood appeared
  26. The former duke Berulf
  27. Desiderius returns to the king
  28. Hermengild and Ingunda and the Spanish legates secretly sent to Fredegunda
  29. Fredegunda sends person to kill Childebert
  30. The army makes an expedition against Septimania
  31. The killing of bishop Prætextatus
  32. Killing of Domnola, Nectarius's wife
  33. Burning of Paris
  34. Temptations of recluses
  35. Spanish legates
  36. Killing of Magnovald
  37. A son is born to Childebert
  38. The Spaniards burst into the Gauls
  39. Death of the bishops
  40. Pelagius of Tours
  41. The slayers of Prætextatus
  42. Beppolenus is appointed duke
  43. Nicecius is appointd governor of Proence; doings of Antestius
  44. The man who wished to kill king Gunthram
  45. Death of duke Desiderius
  46. Death of king Leuvigild



   1. Now king Gunthram in the twenty­fourth year of his reign started from Chalon and went to the city of Nevers. For he was going to Paris by invitation to receive from the holy font of regeneration Chilperic's son, whom they were already calling Clothar. And he left the territory of Nevers and came to the city of Orleans and at that time appeared much among the citizens. For on receiving invitations he went to their homes and partook of the repasts offered him. He received many gifts from them and bestowed many gifts on them in a very generous way. And when he came to the city of Orleans the day was the festival of the blessed Martin, namely the fourth before the nones of the fifth month [July 4]. And a huge throng of people came to meet him with standards and banners, singing praises. And here the Syrian language, there that of the Latins, and again that even of the Jews, sounded together strangely in varied praises, saying: "Long live the king; may his reign over the people last unnumbered years." And the Jews who were to be seen taking part in these praises said: "May all the nations honor you and bend the knee and be subject to you." And so it happened that when the king was seated at dinner after mass he said: "Woe to the Jewish tribe, wicked, treacherous, and always living by cunning. Here's what they were after," said he, " when they cried out their flattering praises today, that all the nations were to honor me as master. [They wish me] to order their synagogue, long ago torn down by the Christians, to be built at the public cost; but by the Lord's command I will never do it". O King glorious for wonderful wisdom. He so understood the craft of the heretics that they entirely failed to get from him what they were going to propose later. At the dinner the king said to the bishops who were present: "I beg you to give me your blessing tomorrow in my house and bring me salvation by your coming, so that I may be saved when in my humility I receive your words of blessing." When he said this all thanked him, and as dinner was finished we rose.
   2. In the morning while the king was visiting the holy places to offer prayer he came to my lodging. It was the church of Saint Avitus the abbot, whom I mention in my book of the miracles. I rose gladly, I admit, to go to meet him, and after giving him my blessing begged him to accept St. Martin's holy bread at my lodging. He did not refuse but courteously came in, drank a cup, invited me to the dinner and went away in good humor.
   At that time Bertram, bishop of Bordeaux, and Palladius of Saintes were in great disfavor with the king because of their support of Gundovald of which we have told above. Moreover bishop Palladius had especially offended the king because he had repeatedly deceived him. Now they had recently been under examination before the remaining bishops and the nobles as to why they had supported Gundovald and why they had foolishly ordained Faustian bishop of Ax at his command. But bishop Palladius took the blame for the ordination from his metropolitan Bertram and took it on his own shoulders, saying: "My metropolitan was suffering greatly from sore eyes and I was plundered and treated with indignity and dragged to the place against my will. I could do nothing else than obey one who said he had received complete control of the Gauls." When this was told the king he was greatly irritated so that he could scarcely be prevailed upon to invite to the dinner these bishops whom he had previously refused to see. So when Bertram came in the king asked: "Who is he?" For it had been a long time since he had seen him. And they said: "This is Bertram bishop of Bordeaux." And the king said to him: "We thank you for keeping faith as you have with your own family. For I would have you know, beloved father, that you are my kinsman on my mother's side and you should not have brought a plague from abroad on your own people." When Bertram had been told this and more, the king turned to Palladius and said: "You do not deserve much gratitude either, bishop Palladius. For you perjured yourself to me three times-a hard thing to say of a bishop-sending me information full of treachery. You excused yourself to me by letter and at the same time you were inviting my brother in other letters. God. Fill judge my cause since I have always tried to treat you as fathers of the church and you have always been treacherous." And he said to the bishops Nicasius and Antidius: "Most holy fathers, tell me what you have done for the advantage of your country or the security of my kingdom." They made no reply and the king washed his hands and after receiving a blessing from the bishops sat at table with a glad countenance and a cheerful behavior as if he had said nothing about the wrongs done him.
   3. Meantime when the dinner was now half over the king asked me to request my deacon who had sung the responsory at the mass the day before, to sing. When he had sung he next asked me to request all the bishops who, at my instance, had come prepared, to appoint each a single clerk from his service to sing before the king. And so I made the request at the king's command, and they sang, each to the best of his ability, a psalm before the king. And when the courses were being changed the king said: "All the silver you see belonged to that perjurer Mummolus, but now by the help God's grace it has been transferred to my ownership. I have already had fifteen of his dishes like the larger one you see yonder smelted down, and I have kept only this one and one other of a hundred and seventy pounds. Why [keep] more than enough for daily use? It is too bad, but I have no other son than Childebert, and he has enough treasures which his father left him beside what I had sent to him from the property of this wretch which was found at Avignon. The rest must be given for the necessities of the poor and the churches.
   4. "There is only one thing that I ask of you, my lord bishops, namely, to pray God's mercy for my son Childebert. For he is a man of sense and ability so that one so cautious and energetic as he could scarcely be found in many years. And if God would deign to grant him to these Gauls perhaps there would be hope that by turn our race, greatly weakened though it is, can rise again. And I have confidence that this will happen through His mercy because the indications at the boy's birth were of this sort. For it was the holy day of Easter and my brother Sigibert was standing in the church and the deacon was walking in procession with the holy book of the Gospels, and a messenger came to the king, and the words of the deacon as he read from the Gospels and of the messenger were the same, saying: 'To thee a son has been born.' And when they both spoke together all the people cried out: 'Glory to all-powerful God.' Moreover he was baptized on the holy day of Pentecost and was made king also on the holy day of the Lord's birth. And so if your prayers attend him, God willing he will be able to rule." So the king spoke and all prayed the Lord in His mercy to keep both kings safe. The king added: "It is true that his mother Brunhilda threatens my life, but I have no misgiving on this account. For the Lord who has saved me from the hands of my enemies will save me from her plots too."
   5. Then he said much against bishop Theodore, protesting that if he came to the synod he would thrust him off again into exile and saying: "I know it was for the sake of these people [1] that he caused my brother Chilperic to be killed. In fact I ought not to be called a man if I cannot avenge his death this year." But I made answer: "And what killed Chilperic, unless it was his own wickedness and your prayers? For he laid many plots for you contrary to justice and they brought death to him. And, so to speak, it was just this that I saw in a dream when I beheld him with tonsured head being ordained bishop, apparently, and then I saw him placed on a plain chair hung only with black and carried along with shining lamps and torches going before him." When I told this the king said: "And I saw another vision which foretold his death. He was brought into my presence loaded with chains by three bishops, of whom one was Tetricus, the second Agricola, and the third Nicecius of Lyons. And two of them said: 'Set him free, we entreat you, give him a beating and let him go.' But bishop Tetricus answered harshly, 'It shall not be so? but he shall be burned with fire for his crimes.' And when they had carried on this discussion for a long time, as if quarreling, I saw at a distance a caldron set on a fire and boiling furiously. Then I wept and they seized unhappy Chilperic and broke his limbs and threw him in the caldron. And he was immediately so melted and dissolved amid the steam from the water that no trace of him at all remained." The king told this story and we wondered at it, and the feast being finished we rose.
   6. Next day the king went hunting. When he returned I brought into his presence Garachar, count of Bordeaux, and Bladast, who, as I have told you before, had taken refuge in the church of Saint Martin because they had been followers of Gundovald. I had previously made intercession for them but had failed, and so at this later time I said: "Hear me, powerful king. Behold I have been sent to you on an embassy by my master. What answer shall I give to him who sent me when you refuse to give me any answer?" And he said in amazement: "And who is your master who sent you?" I smiled and answered: "The blessed Martin." Then he ordered me to bring the men before him. And when they entered his presence he reproached them with many treacheries and perjuries, calling them again and again tricky foxes, but he restored them to his favor, giving back what he had taken from them.
   7. When the Lord's day came the king went to church to hear mass. And the brethren and fellow­bishops who were there yielded to bishop Palladius the honor of celebrating it. When he began to read the prophecy the king inquired who he was. And when they told him that it was the bishop Palladius he was angry at once and said: "Is he now to preach the sacred word before me who has always been faithless to me and perjured. I will leave this church immediately and will not hear my enemy preach." So saying he started to leave the church. Then the bishops were troubled by the humiliation of their brother and said to the king: "We saw him present at the feast you gave and we saw you receive a blessing at his hand and why does the king despise him now? If we had known that he was hateful to you we would have resorted to another to celebrate mass. But now if you permit it let him continue the ceremony which he has begun; tomorrow if you bring any charge against him let it be judged in accordance with the holy canons." By this time bishop Palladius had retired to the sacristy in great humiliation. Then the king bade him be recalled and he finished the ceremony which he had begun. Moreover when Palladius and Bertram were again summoned to the king's table they became angry at one another and reproached one another with many adulteries and fornications and with a good many perjuries as well. At these matters many laughed, but a number who were keener of perception lamented that the weeds of the devil should so flourish among the bishops of the Lord. And so they left the king's presence, giving bonds and security to appear at the synod on the tenth day before the kalends of the ninth month.
   [8. List of prodigies. 9. Queen Fredegunda, three bishops and three hundred nobles swear to Gunthram that the young Clothar is Chilperic's son. 10. Gunthram discovers the bodies of Chilperic's sons, Merovech and Clovis, and gives them due burial. 11. Gunthram's life is in danger. 12. Bishop Theodore of Marseilles is forced to appear before Gunthram. 13. Gunthram sends an embassy to Childebert. 14. Gregory nearly loses his life in crossing the Rhine but is saved by relics of St. Martin.]
   15. We started on the journey and came to the town of Yvois and there were met by deacon Vulfilaic and taken to his monastery, where we received a very kind welcome. This monastery is situated on a mountain top about eight miles from the town I have mentioned. On this mountain Vulfilaic built a great church and made it famous for its relics of the blessed Martin and other saints. While staying there I began to ask him to tell me something of the blessing of his conversion and how he had entered the clergy, for he was a Lombard by race. But he would not speak of these matters since he was quite determined to avoid vain­glory. But I urged him with terrible oaths, first promising that I would disclose to no one what he told and I began to ask him to conceal from me none of the matters of which I would ask. After resisting a long time he was overcome at length by my entreaties and protestations and told the following tale: "When I was a small boy," said he, "I heard the name of the blessed Martin, though I did not know yet whether he was martyr or confessor or what good he had done in the world, or what region had the merit of receiving his blessed limbs in the tomb; and I was already keeping vigils in his honor, and if any money came into my hands I would give alms. As I grew older I was eager to learn and I was able to write before I knew the order of the written letters [before I could read]. Then I joined the abbot Aridius and was taught by him and visited the church of Saint Martin. Returning with him he took a little of the dust of the holy tomb for a blessing. This he placed in a little case and hung it on my neck. Coming to his monastery in the territory of Limoges he took the little case to place it in his oratory and the dust had increased so much that it not only filled the whole case but burst out at the joints wherever it could find an exit. In the light of this miracle my mind was the more on fire to place all my hope in his power. Then I came to the territory of Trèves and on the mountain where you are now built with my own hands the dwelling you see. I found here an image of Diana which the unbelieving people worshiped as a god. I also built a column on which I stood in my bare feet with great pain. And when the winter had come as usual I was so nipped by the icy cold that the power of the cold often caused my toe­nails to fall off and frozen moisture hung from my beard like candles. For this country is said to have a very cold winter." And when I asked him urgently what food or drink he had and how he destroyed the images on the mountain, he said: "My food and drink were a little bread and vegetables and a small quantity of water. And when a multitude began to flock to me from the neighboring villages I preached always that Diana was nothing, that her images and the worship which they thought it well to observe were nothing; and that the songs which they sang at their cups and wild debauches were disgraceful; but it was right to offer the sacrifice of praise to all-powerful God who made heaven and earth. I often prayed that the Lord would deign to hurl down the image and free the people from this error. And the Lord's mercy turned the rustic mind to listen to my words and to follow the Lord, abandoning their idols. Then I gathered some of them together so that by their help I could hurl down the huge image which I could not budge with my own strength, for I had already broken the rest of the small images, which was an easier task. When many had gathered at this statue of Diana ropes were fastened and they began to pull but their toil could accomplish nothing. Then I hastened to the church and threw myself on the ground and weeping begged the divine mercy that the power of God should destroy that which human energy could not overturn. After praying I went out to the workmen and took hold of the rope, and as soon as I began to pull at once the image fell to the ground where I broke it with iron hammers and reduced it to dust. But at this very hour when I was going to take food my whole body was so covered with malignant pimples from sole to crown that no space could be found that a single finger might touch. I went alone into the church and stripped myself before the holy altar. Now I had there a jar full of oil which I had brought from Saint Martin's church. With this I oiled all my body with my own hands and soon lay down to sleep. I awoke about midnight and rose to perform the service and found my whole body cured as if no sore had appeared on me. And I perceived that these sores were sent not otherwise than by the hate of the enemy. And inasmuch as he enviously seeks to injure those who seek God, the bishops, who should have urged me the more to continue wisely the work I had begun, came and said: 'This way which you follow is not the right one, and a baseborn man like you cannot be compared with Simon of Antioch who lived on a column. Moreover the situation of the place does not allow you to endure the hardship. Come down rather and dwell with the brethren you have gathered.' At their words I came down, since not to obey the bishops is called a crime. And I walked and ate with them. And one day the bishop summoned me to a village at a distance and sent workmen with crowbars and hammers and axes and destroyed the column I was accustomed to stand on. I returned the next day and found it all gone. I wept bitterly but could not build again what they had torn down for fear of being called disobedient to the bishop's orders. And since then I am content to dwell with the brothers just as I do now."
   16. And when I asked him to tell somewhat of the miracles which the blessed Martin worked in that place, he related the following: "The son of a certain Frank of the highest rank among his people was deaf and dumb; he was brought by his kinsmen to this church and I had him sleep on a couch in the holy temple with my deacon and another attendant. And by day he devoted himself to prayer and at night he slept in the church as I have said. And when God pitied him the blessed Martin appeared to me in a vision saying, 'Send the lamb out of the church for he is now cured.' In the morning I was thinking what this dream meant when the boy came to me and spoke and began to thank God, and turning to me said: 'I thank all-powerful God who has restored to me speech and hearing.' After this he was cured and returned home. . . . .
   [17. Peculiar appearances in the heavens from which Gregory expected that "some plague would be sent upon them from the heavens." 18. Childebert's invasion of Italy and the appointment of various dukes and counts. 19. The abbot Dagulfus is taken in adultery. 20. A synod meets at Mâcon. 21. Childebert hears a charge of grave robbery against Gunthram Boso. 22. Various items of the year 585. 23-25. Prodigies. 26. Eberulf, former duke of Tours and Poitiers, loses his property. 27. Desiderius is restored to favor with Gunthram. 28. Relations with the Spanish king. 29. The plot to assassinate Childebert and its failure. 30. Gunthram sends two armies to attack Septimania. They plunder his own territories and turn back without success. 31. Quarrel between Fredegunda and Prætextatus, bishop of Rouen. 32. Dispute about vineyards between one of Fredegunda's officials and Domnola.]
   33. Now there was in these days in the city of Paris a woman who said to the inhabitants: "O flee from the city and know that t must be burned with fire." And when she was ridiculed by many For saying this on the evidence of lots and because of some idle dream or at the urging of a mid­day demon, she replied: "It is not is you say, for I say truly that I saw in a vision a man all illumined coming from the church of St. Vincent, holding a torch in his hand and setting fire to the houses of the merchants one after another." Then the third night after the woman made this prophecy, at twilight a certain citizen took a light and went into his store­house and took oil and other necessary things and went out, leaving the light close by the cask of oil. This was the house next the gate which is towards the south. From this light the house caught fire and burned, and from it others began to catch. Then the fire threatened the prisoners, but the blessed Germanus appeared to them and broke the posts and chains by which they were bound and opened the prison door and allowed all the prisoners to go safe. They went forth and took refuge in the church of St. Vincent in which is the blessed bishop's tomb. Now when the flame was carried hither and thither through the whole city by the high wind end the fire had the complete mastery, it began to approach another gate where there was an oratory of the blessed Martin which had been placed there because he had there cured a case of leprosy with a kiss. The man who had built it of interwoven branches, trusting in God and confident of the blessed Martin's power, took refuge within its walls with his property saying: "I believe and have faith that he who has so often mastered fire and at this place by a kiss made a leper's skin clean, will keep the fire from here." When the fire came near great masses of flame swept along but when they touched the wall of the oratory they were extinguished at once. But the people kept calling to the man and woman: "Run if you wish to save yourselves. For a mass of fire is rushing on you; see, ashes and coals are falling around you like a heavy rain. Leave the oratory or you will be burned in the fire." But they kept on praying and were never moved by these words. And the woman, who was armed with the strongest faith in the power of the blessed bishop, never moved from the window through which the flames sometimes entered. And so great was the power of the blessed bishop that he not only saved this oratory together with his follower's house but he did not permit the flames to injure the other houses which were around. There the fire ceased which had broken out on one side of the bridge. And on the other side it burned all so completely that only the river stopped it. However, the churches with the houses attached to them were not burned. It was said that this city had been as it were consecrated in ancient times so that not only fire could not prevail there but snakes and mice could not appear. But lately when a channel under the bridge had been cleaned and the mud which filled it had been taken out they found a snake and a mouse of bronze. They were removed and after that mice without number and snakes appeared, and fires began to take place.
   34. Inasmuch as the prince of darkness has a thousand arts of doing injury, I will relate what lately happened to recluses vowed to God. Vennoc, a Breton, who had become a priest as we have told in another book, was so given up to abstinence that he wore only garments made of skins and ate wild herbs in the raw state and merely touched the wine to his lips so that one would think he was kissing it rather than drinking. But as the devout in their generosity often gave him vessels of this liquor, sad to say he learned to drink immoderately and to be so given up to it as to be generally seen drunk. And so as his drunkenness grew worse and time went on he was seized by a demon and so violently harassed that he would seize a knife or any kind of weapon or stone or club that he could lay hands on and run after men in an insane rage. And it became necessary to bind him with chains and imprison him in a cell. After raging under this punishment for two years died.
   There was also Antholius of Bordeaux. When a boy of twelve years old, it is said, the servant of a merchant, he asked to be allowed to become a recluse. His master opposed him a long time, thinking he would grow lukewarm and that at his age he could not attain to what he wished, but he was at length overcome by his servant's entreaties and permitted him to fulfil his desire. Now there was an old crypt vaulted and very finely built, and in the corner of it was a little cell built of squared stones in which there was hardly room for one man standing. The boy entered this cell and remained in it eight years or more, satisfied with very little food and drink and devoting himself to watching and prayer. After this was seized with a great fear and began to shout that he was being tortured internally. So it happened, by the aid, as I suppose of the devil's soldiers, that he tore away the stones that shut him in, dashed the wall to the ground and cried, wringing his hands, that the saints of God were causing him frightful torture. And when he had continued in this madness a long time and often mentioned the name of Saint Martin and said he caused him more torture than the other saints, he was brought to Tours. But the evil spirit, because, I suppose, of the virtue and greatness of the saint, did not tear the man. He remained in Tours for the space of a year and as he suffered no more he returned, but later on he suffered from the trouble that he had been free from here.
   [35. An embassy from Spain to king Gunthram.]
   36. By order of king Childebert Magnovald was killed in his presence, for reasons not given, in the following manner: the king staying in his palace in the city; of Metz and was attending a sport in which an animal was surrounded by a pack of dogs and worried, when Magnovald was summoned. He came and not knowing what was to happen he began to look at the animal and laugh heartily with the rest. But a man who had received his orders seeing him intent on the spectacle raised his axe and dashed it against his head. He fell and died and was thrown out by the window and buried by his own people. His property was take at once, as much as was found, and carried to the public treasury Certain persons said that it was because he had beaten his wife to death after his brother died and had married his brother's wife, that he was killed.
   [37. Birth of a son to Childebert. 38. Spanish expedition into Gaul. 39. Death of several bishops.]
   40. There was in the city of Tours a certain Pelagius who was practiced in every villany and was not afraid of any judge, because he had under his control the keepers of the horses belonging to the fisc. Because of this he never ceased either on land or on the rivers to thieve, dispossess, plunder, murder, and commit every sort of crime. I often sent for him and both by threats and by gentle words tried to make him desist from his wickedness. But it was hatred rather than any reward of justice I got from him, according to Solomon's proverb: Reprove not a fool lest he hate thee.
   The wretch so hated me that he often plundered and beat and left half­dead the men of the holy church, and was always looking for pretexts to harm the cathedral or the church of Saint Martin. And so it happened that once when our men were coming and bringing sea­urchins in vessels, he beat them and trampled on them and took the vessels. When I learned of this I excommunicated him, not to avenge my wrong but to correct him more easily of this insanity. But he chose twelve men and came to clear himself of this crime by perjury. Though I was unwilling to receive any oath I was compelled by him and my fellow­citizens, and so I sent the rest away and received his oath only, and ordered that he be taken back into communion. It was then the first month. When the fifth month [2] came when the meadows are usually cut, he entered a meadow adjoining his own that belonged to the monks But as soon as he put sickle to it he was seized with fever and died on the third day. He had had a tomb made for him in Saint Martin's church in the village of Candes, but when it was uncovered his people found it broken to bits. He was afterwards buried in the portico of the church. The vessels for which he had perjured himself were brought by his storekeeper after his death. Here the power of the blessed Mary is evident, in whose church the wretch had taken a false oath.
   [41. Fredegunda is accused of the killing of Prætextatus. 42. Beppolenus leaves Fredegunda and is made a duke by Gunthram. 43. Palladius, bishop of Saintes, is forced to appear before Gunthram. 44. Fredegunda attempts to have Gunthram assassinated. 45. Death of duke Desiderius. 46. Richared succeeds Leuvigild of Spain.]



[1] Gundovald and his followers
[2] July