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E00787: Prudentius writes a Latin poem on *Eulalia (virgin and martyr of Mérida, S00407); the poem, part of the Crowns of the Martyrs (Peristephanon), describes Eulalia as a twelve-year-old girl who willingly provokes her own martyrdom; at her death a dove leaves her mouth and snow covers her dead body. Written in Calahorra (northern Spain), c. 400.

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posted on 2015-10-16, 00:00 authored by mtycner
Liber Peristephanon, Poem III


The body of Eulalia is said to be buried in Mérida in western Spain; her tomb and blood increase the glory of the city (see $E00788).

Eulalia is twelve years old and decides not to get married. During the persecutions she refuses to sacrifice to the pagan gods. She seeks martyrdom, but her mother keeps her in a house in the countryside and tries to hold her back from her intention. Eulalia flees in the night. As she walks, she is assisted by angels and a miraculous light guides her, just like the pillar which had guided the patriarchs, so that she finds her way. She arrives in the city, openly declares to the authorities her opposition to the worship of pagan gods and the emperor Maximian, and challenges them to put her to torture. The governor tries to convince Eulalia to reconsider her decision and argues the advantages of marriage. In response, she spits on him, scatters the idols and kicks the censers. The torturers cut her flesh and she is burnt on a pyre. As she dies, a dove leaves her mouth. Her executioners flee in terror, and suddenly snow falls from heaven, extinguishes the fire and covers Eulalia's body.

There follows a passage concerning Eulalia's tomb and cult practices at it (see $E00788).

Text: Cunningham 1966: 278-285. Translation: Thomson 1953, 143-157. Summary: M. Tycner.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Eulalia, martyr of Mérida (Spain), ob. 303/305 : S00407

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Poems Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Iberian Peninsula

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Calahorra Osset Osset Osen (castrum) Osser castrum

Major author/Major anonymous work


Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle at martyrdom and death Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Miracle with animals and plants Miracle during lifetime Miraculous sound, smell, light

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Soldiers Women


Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348–after 405) was a Christian aristocrat from Calahorra in the Spanish province of Tarraconensis. He was a high official in the imperial bureaucracy in Rome, but withdrew from public life, returned to Calahorra, and dedicated himself to the service and celebration of God. Most of what we know about his biography comes from the preface to the ensemble of his works, which can be reliably dated to 404 (Cunningham 1966, 1-2), and other autobiographical remarks scattered throughout his works (for a detailed discussion, see Palmer 1989, 6-31). He composed several poetical works, amongst them the Peristephanon (literally, On the Crowns [of the Martyrs]), a collection of fourteen poems of different length describing martyrdoms of saints. We do not know exactly at which point in his literary career Prudentius wrote the preface (possibly at the very end, just before publication); for attempts at a precise dating of the Peristephanon, see Fux 2013, 9, n. 1. The poems in the Peristephanon, written in elegant classical metres, deal mainly with martyrs from Spain, but some of them are dedicated to saints of Rome, Africa and the East. The poems were widely read in the late antique and medieval West, and had a considerable influence on the diffusion of cult of the saints included. In later periods they were sometimes used as hymns in liturgical celebrations and had an impact on the development of the Spanish hymnody. Some indications in the poems suggest that they were written to commemorate the saints on their feast days, but Prudentius probably did not compose them for the liturgy of his time. Rather, they probably provided 'devotional reading matter for a cultured audience outside a church context' (Palmer 1989, 3; see also Chapter 3 in her book).


The third hymn of the Crowns of the Martyrs is devoted to the female patron saint of Mérida, an important centre of late antique Christianity in Spain, located in the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula, far from Prudentius' hometown Calahorra. Eulalia's cult must already have spread widely across late-antique Spain; but Prudentius' hymn definitely added to its popularity – the story of the martyred girl from Mérida was for instance adapted (though with some changes) by Gregory of Tours (see E00640). The 7th-century Martyrdom of Eulalia, however, does not derive from Prudentius and presents another tradition (EXXXXX). Prudentius' account focuses on Eulalia's rejection of marriage and her brave nature, extraordinary for a girl of her age. Quite exceptional are the miracles she experiences: the angel and the light which guide her during her night flight from the country house, as well as the dove leaving her mouth at her death, and the snow which falls over her dead body. The poem is written in the dactylic trimeter hypercatalectic.


Editions of the Peristephanon: Cunningham, M.P., Prudentii Carmina (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 126; Turnhout: Brepols, 1966), 251-389. Bergman, J., Prudentius, Carmina (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 61; Vienna, 1926), 291-431. Translations of the Peristephanon: Eagan, C., Prudentius, Poems (Fathers of the Church 43; Washington D.C.: Catholic University Press, 1962), 95-280. English translation. Thomson, H.J., Prudentius, vol. 2 (Loeb Classical Library; London Cambridge, Mass: W. Heinemann; Harvard University Press, 1953), 98-345. Edition and English translation. Further reading: Fux, P.-Y., Prudence et les martyrs: hymnes et tragédie. Peristephanon 1. 3-4. 6-8. 10. Commentaire, (Fribourg: Academic Press, 2013). Malamud, M.A., A Poetics of Transformation: Prudentius and Classical Mythology (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989). Palmer, A.-M., Prudentius on the Martyrs (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989). Roberts, M., Poetry and the Cult of the Martyrs: The "Liber Peristephanon" of Prudentius (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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