Gregory of Tours

c.538-594. Frankish bishop and historian. Born Georgius Florentius Gregorius of a noble Roman family at Arverna (now Clermont-Gerrand), he was in 573 appointed bishop of Tours, and carried out his immense tasks with zeal and devotion. He saw to the administration of an important diocese, disciplined an unruly clergy and members of religious orders, defended Catholicism against Arianism, kept order in Tours (the site of a pilgrimage center), and attended to secular judicial duties. Except for a short period of antagonism by King Chilperic (576-84), Gregory was on amiable terms with all four rulers of Tours during the time he was bishop, and often advised them on matters of state.

Gregory's writings consist of ten books of history, seven of miracles, a book on the lives of the Fathers, a commentary on the Psalms, and a treatise on offices of the church. His best-known work, Historia Francorum, treats the history of the world to 511 in the first two books, and the history of the Franks to 591 in the remaining eight books. Some of the latter give an almost exhaustive account of Gregory's activities around Tours. The dominant theme of his history is concerned with the spread of Christianity through the exploits of Catholic kings and the work of missionaries and martyrs. Although he wrote in crude Latin and his historical methods were questionable, his works provide an invaluable knowledge of sixth-century Gaul. His writings and life reveal him to be a sincere and eloquent spokesman for the developing early church.

O.M. Dalton (ed. and tr.), The History of the Franks (2 vols., 1927); W.C. McDermott (tr.), Selections from the Minor Works (1949); J.M. Wallace- Hadrill, The Long-Haired Kings (1962).