In a few days’ time I will go to France for a short holiday, to Brittany to be exact. With two friends we will visit menhirs and other archaeological and historical places of interest. It can therefore be no coincidence that I found this little story about a Breton man in Gregory of Tours’ Historia Francorum, when I was just opening some pages.
Winnocus, a Breton monk, is on his way to Jerusalem and visits Tours, where Gregory is bishop. It is immediately clear that he is a man of great holiness and rather than having him traval further to Jerusalem, Gregory wants him to stay there at Tours. He is given the office of priest and performs a miracle: when a certain nun Inghitrudis , who uses to collect water from the grave of St. Martin – probably the water which was used to wash the grave – had not enough of this water to fill her jar, she asks Winnocus to bring a jar of wine to the grave. The wine is sanctified by standing near to St. Martins grave and the next morning she asks Winnicus to throw half of the wine away and to add a drop of her holy water to the jar. A miracle happens and the jar is full of wine again and this trick is performed two more times. Wish I had such water!
Winnocus would end badly: in book 8.34 Gregory tells how Winnocus gave up his ascetic lifestyle and got used to drinking wine and when drunk he was chasing after people visiting him with a knife. The Devil had gotten hold of him and this once holy man had to be chained by his former devotees.
I wonder what kind of people we will meet in Brittany…
Gregory is very lax in the use of gender and cases and his syntax is not always clear, but the general sense is not difficult to grasp.
Gregory of Tours, Historia Francorum 5. 21. De Winnoco Brittone.
Tunc Winnocus Britto in summa abstinentia a Brittaniis venit Toronus, Hierusolimis accedere cupiens, nullum alium vestimentum nisi de pellibus ovium lana privatis habens; quem nos, quo facilius teneremus, quia nobis relegiosus valde videbatur, presbiterii gratia honoravimus. Inghitrudis autem relegiosa consuetudinem habebat, aquam de sepulchrum sancti Martini collegere. Qua aqua deficiente, rogat, vas cum vino ad beati tumulum deportari. Transacta autem nocte, eum exinde hoc presbitero praesenti adsumi mandavit; et ad se delatum, ait presbitero: 'Aufer hinc vino et unam tantum guttam de aqua benedicta, unde parum superest, effunde'. Quod cum fecisset, mirum dictu, vasculum, quod semeplenum erat, ad unius guttae discensum impletum est. Idem bis aut tertio vacuatum, per unam tantum guttam est impletum; quod non ambigetur et in hoc beati Martini fuisse virtutem.
in summa abstinentia: (a man living) in high abstinence
Toronus: Tours (undeclined)
pellis pellis (f.): skin
lana privatis: without wool
presbiterii gratia: with the honour of priesthood
vas vasis (n.): jar
eum: the jar (note that Gregory uses the masculine instead of the neuter.)
exhinde: from there
adsumo adsumpsi adsumptum: to take away
hoc presbitero praesenti: abl. abs.
et ad se delatum: and (the jar) being brought to her
Aufer hinc vino: Hopeless syntax `take away from the wine from there.’ i.e. `pour some wine out of the jar’.
parum: a little
semiplenus : half full
ad unius guttae discensum: by the falling of just one drop
quod non ambigetur et: therefore it shall not be doubted that also etc.