Gregory of Tours - an historian of the Middle Ages
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Gregory of Tours

Gregory of Tours was born in the early Middle Ages, about 538 AD - we don't know exactly when. His parents were both rich people, from rich families. When he grew up, he became the Bishop of Tours, which was a city in the center of France, along the Loire river. Most of the earlier bishops of Tours had been his relatives, so this wasn't a big surprise.

At that time, the Bishop of Tours was the most important bishop in France, and so Gregory knew all kinds of important people - the Merovingian kings and queens, and all the people who came to visit them, and all the other lords and ladies, and of course the other bishops. Gregory didn't travel much himself - he got as far as Paris, but not further - but he knew everybody anyway.

Radegund's Desk
This desk belonged to a nun,
St. Radegund, who was Gregory's friend.
Do you see the chi-rho symbol near the top?

Gregory decided to write a book about all these people he knew, which would be a history of his own times. His book is the main way that we know about what happened in Merovingian France. (Gregory began with the creation of the world, and told the stories of Moses and King David, but he knew mainly what was in the Bible, and skipped quickly to his own times.)

On the other hand, Gregory wrote many things we might not agree with today. For one thing, he believed that miracles happened all the time, all around him. Also, he thought that anyone who disagreed with his kind of Christianity was a bad person and would go to Hell. He especially disliked Arians, Jews and people who followed the old Roman religion. We can find out a lot about Merovingian France from Gregory, but we don't have to believe everything he says, or agree with all his ideas.

When Gregory of Tours died, about 594 AD, he was about 56 years old. After he was dead, the Pope made him a saint.

Bibliography and further reading about Gregory of Tours:

Beowulf
Chaucer
Medieval European literature
Medieval Islamic literature
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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