Who was Gregory of Tours?
Gregory of Tours was born about 538 AD – we don’t know exactly when. His parents were both rich people, from rich families. When Gregory 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.
Why was Gregory important?
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.
What did Gregory do?
Gregory decided to write a book about all these people he knew, which would be a history of his own times. (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.) His book is the main way that we know about what happened in Merovingian France.
Gregory lived not long after the fall of Rome, when most people in Europe were too poor to go to school. Most of the educated people – Arya Bhata in India, the doctors of Gondishapur, the architects of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople – lived too far away for Gregory to know them. But there were also educated people writing in the Mediterranean: Isidore of Seville in Spain, Gregory the Great in Italy, and Procopius in Constantinople.
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, Jewish people, 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.
More about the Merovingians
St. Germain des Près Abbey (built when Gregory was a child)
More about bishops
More about saints