University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E00788: Prudentius, in his Latin Crowns of the Martyrs (Peristephanon), written c. 400 in Calahorra (northern Spain), in a poem on the martyrdom of *Eulalia (virgin and martyr of Mérida, S00407), describes the tomb and shrine of Eulalia in Mérida (south-west Spain) and the custom of bringing flowers to her tomb.

online resource
posted on 2015-10-16, 00:00 authored by mtycner
Liber Peristephanon, Poem III.1-10

Germine nobilis Eulalia
mortis et indole nobilior
Emeritam sacra virgo suam,
cuius ab ubere progenita est,
5 ossibus ornat, amore colit.
proximus occiduo locus est
qui tulit hoc decus egregium,
urbe potens, populis locuples,
sed mage sanguine martyrii
10 virgineoque potens titulo.

'Noble of stock, and nobler still in the quality of her death, the holy maid Eulalia honours with her bones and tends with her love her Emerita, the town that gave her birth. Far in the west lies the place that has won this signal honour; as a city, great and populous, but greater through the blood of martyrdom and a maiden's church (titulus).'

Liber Peristephanon, Poem III.186-215:

nunc locus Emerita est tumulo,
clara colonia Vettoniae,
quam memorabilis amnis Ana
praeterit et viridante rapax
190 gurgite moenia pulchra lavit.
hic, ubi marmore perspicuo
atria luminat alma nitor
et peregrinus et indigena,
relliquias cineresque sacros
195 servat humus veneranda sinu.
tecta corusca super rutilant
de laquearibus aureolis
saxaque caesa solum variant,
floribus ut rosulenta putes
200 prata rubescere multimodis.
carpite purpureas violas
sanguineosque crocos metite,
non caret his genialis hiems,
laxat et arva tepens glacies,
205 floribus ut cumulet calathos.
ista comantibus e foliis
munera, virgo puerque, date.
ast ego serta choro in medio
texta feram pede dactylico,
210 vilia, marcida, festa tamen.
sic venerarier ossa libet
ossibus altar et inpositum:
illa Dei sita sub pedibus
prospicit haec populosque suos
215 carmine propitiata fovet.

'Now her [Eulalia's] tomb stands in Emerita, that famous town in Vettonia by which the notable river Ana passes, washing the handsome walls as it sweeps along with its green waters. Here, where the lustre of shining marble, foreign and native, lights up the motherly church, the worshipful earth keeps her remains, her holy ashes, in its bosom. Overhead the gleaming roof flashes light from its gilded panels, and shaped stones diversify the floor so that it seems like a rose-covered meadow blushing with varied blooms. Pluck purple violets, pick blood-red crocuses. Our genial winter has no lack of them; the cold is tempered and loosens its grip on the land to load our baskets with flowers. Give her these gifts, you girls and boys, from the luxuriant leaves. But I in the midst of your company will bring garlands wreathed of dactylic measures, of little worth and faded, but still joyous. So will we venerate her bones and the altar placed over her bones, while she, set at the feet of God, views all our doings, our song wins her favour, and she cherishes her people.'

Text: Cunningham 1966: 278 and 284-285. Translation: Thomson 1953, 142-145 and 154-157, lightly modified.


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 - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects



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).


On the hymn see E00787. The quoted passages stress twice the special connection between Eulalia and the city of Mérida, the town where the saint was born and martyred. They also give insight into an interesting cult practice, that of bringing fresh flowers to the tomb and the altar erected over it within Eulalia's shrine. Eulalia was martyred in December, but Prudentius argues that the genial winter allows offerings to the saint of baskets of flowers. From the second passage, we also learn about the richly decorated and colourful floor in the saint's shrine, which Prudentius juxtaposes with the flowers brought to her tomb; he describes his own florid verses as a further gift to Eulalia.


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).

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager