Saints of the Day – Gregory of Tours

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Gregory of Tours, date and artist unknown; Church of Saint Sebastian, Soultzmatt, France; phogoraphed on 14 March 2009 by Bernard Chenal; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Born at Clermont-Ferrand, c.538; died at Tours c.596. Gregory of Tours is remembered chiefly as an historian of the Franks, but his feast day as a saint is celebrated at Tours and in some other French dioceses.

Gregorius Florentius belonged to an important Gallo-Roman family of Auvergne that contained many other saints and bishops, and took the name Gregory later in life. He was raised by his uncle Saint Gallus of Clermont, after the death of his father, studied Scripture under Saint Avitus, a priest of Clermont.

Saint Gregory was appointed to the see of Tours in 573. He was an influential, energetic, and much-travelled bishop, whose difficulties were greatly increased by civil disturbances and political fluctuations; his faithfulness to his religious office made enemies for him in high places, notably the notorious Queen Fredegund.

He soon came into conflict with King Chilperic when Tours came under the king’s control in 576, and Gregory supported Meroveus, the king’s son, against the king. The differences culminated in the charge of treason against Gregory by Leudastis, whom Gregory had removed as count of Tours. The charges were proven false by a council appointed to investigate them, and Leudastis was punished for perjury.

Things improved with subsequent monarchs after Chilperic’s death in 584. Gregory rebuilt the cathedral and several churches, converted heretics, and was known for his ability, justice, charity, and religious fervor. He was a great bishop much revered by Saint Gregory the Great.

Of Gregory’s extensive writings the most valuable is the History of the Franks, a source book for the Middle Ages in western Europe, written with verve and enthusiasm to show his Frankish contemporaries the error of their ways. His book is now the best historical source of the Merovingian period.

His hagiographical works, the Glory of the Martyrs, the Life of the (Gallic) Fathers, and others, are less Lives of saints than collections of wonders related of them. Gregory formed a library from which Venantius Fortunatus did not disdain to borrow; all his writing was done after he became bishop, a sufficiently remarkable performance seeing that bad health was added to his episcopal labors (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).

In art Saint Gregory of Tours has the fish near him, with whose liver he healed his father. Because he was a great historian, he is sometimes shown with a pen and book (Roeder).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 12 August 2020. Web. 2 December 2020. <>