Audoin, Vita Eligii

Bishop Eligius of Noyon and Tournai (d. 660) was one of the leading figures of the mid-seventh century. His early career as a moneyer is attested by both his vita and the survival of coins bearing his stamp. His signature also survives on an extant document by King Clovis II confirming privileges of St Denis in 653.

The status of the Vita Eligii remains mixed. Few would dispute that the original author was Eligius’s friend, Bishop Audoin of Rouen, not least because the text is sometimes accompanied by a letter from Audoin to Chrodebert of Tours asking him to check it over. Bruno Krusch, however, pointed out a number of features in the text which suggest that it had been thoroughly reworked at least once, a position most recently defended by Isabelle Westeel. Michel Banniard, on the other hand, has argued that there are Merovingian linguistic features in the text which might suggest that the changes to the text were minimal – something Yitzhak Hen once dismissed as ‘totally unconvincing’. More recently, Clemens Bayer has suggested that different parts of the Vita can be dated more precisely:

I An initial version composed by Audoin in the 660s concerning Eligius’s early life (= Book I).

II An account of Eligius’s life as bishop begun after the ‘civil war’ of 673-5 which Eligius is said to have prophesied (II. 32). There are a number of indications that Balthild (d. c. 680), Ebroin (d. c. 684) and Chrodebert of Tours (d. c. 682) were alive, so this section of the text was probably completed, at least in draft, by the early 680s.

III At this point an editor added material, notably the first two chapters of Book II.

IV A number of stories relating to Eligius visiting his home town of Limoges have suggested that, between 691 and 697, the text was edited again to include some of these elements.

V A metrical life of Eligius was then added sometime in the eighth century (according to Heinzelmann, who is not convinced of the ‘Carolingian character’ of the piece) to form a Book III.

Latin Text:

Image of the Brussels manuscript from the Europeana Regia project.

Image of the Brussels manuscript from the Europeana Regia project.

Vita Eligii Noviomagensis, ed. B. Krusch, MGH SRM, 4 (Hanover, 1902), pp. 663-742 [link]. Krusch omitted a number of ‘less historical’ passages, but missing passages can be filled in with reference to the edition in PL 87.


A full translation of Krusch’s text was posted online by Prof Jo Ann McNamara [link]

Select Manuscripts:

2b Brussels Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België, MS 5374-75 [link] – a ninth or possibly tenth century manuscript.

Select Bibliography:

M. Banniard, ‘Latin et communication orale en Gaule Franque: le témoignage de la Vita Eligii‘, in J. Fontaine & J. N. Hillgarth (eds.), The Seventh Century (London, 1992), pp. 58-86.

C. M. M. Bayer, ‘Vita Eligii’, Reallexicon der Germanischen Altertumskunde, 35 (2007), 461-524.

M. Heinzelmann, ‘L’hagiographie mérovingienne: panorama des documents potentiels’, in M. Goullet, M. Heinzelmann & C. Veyard-Cosme (eds.), L’hagiographie mérovingienne à travers ses réécritures (Ostfildern, 2010), pp. 27-83.