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E00858: Latin poem on *Vincent (deacon and martyr of Saragossa and Valencia, S00290) composed by Prudentius, writing c. 400 in Calahorra (northern Spain). The poem, part of his Crowns of the Martyrs (Peristephanon), gives details about Vincent's suffering, death and cult, both during his lifetime and after death.

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posted on 2015-11-17, 00:00 authored by mszada
Liber Peristephanon, Poem V


Prudentius praises the day on which Vincent was martyred – see $E00860. The persecutor tries to convince Vincent to sacrifice to the pagan gods, Vincent refuses and calls the pagan gods devils. The judge orders that he should be bound, his joints broken and his flesh cut with hooks. However, the torturers are unable to wound his body more deeply; Vincent is cheerful and says he does not fear bodily death. The governor Datianus wants Vincent to disclose the place where the Christian writings are hidden, so that he can burn them, but Vincent refuses and threatens the persecutor with eternal punishment. Seeing the inability to kill Vincent by quartering, the judge orders him to be burned on a gridiron. Vincent hurries towards the gridiron and suffers without complaint. He is then thrown into a dark dungeon and has to lie on pieces of broken pots. Miraculously, light enters his prison, the broken pots turn into flowers, and Vincent has a vision of angels. When the governor learns about it, he orders Vincent to be allowed to recover before being tortured again. People of the city look after Vincent – see $E00881. He dies and his soul is accompanied to heaven by saints – see $E00882. The governor is furious and wants his body to be given to the wild beasts, so that no cult around it may arise – see $E00883. The body is miraculously protected by a raven which frightens away other animals. Datianus orders it to be thrown into the sea, but the body is miraculously carried back to the shore, together with the millstone to which it was attached. A tomb, and later an altar of the saint is erected there, and the saint's soul dwells in heaven with the Maccabees and with Isaiah who were martyred in a similar way to Vincent – see $E00884. According to Prudentius, Vincent is an even greater saint than them, since his body alone was exposed to humiliation after death. Prudentius encourages us to celebrate Vincent's festival and venerate his relics – see $E00885.

Text: Cunningham 1966: 294-313. Thomson 1953, 169-203. Summary: M. Tycner.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Vincent, deacon and martyr of Saragossa and Valencia, ob. c. 305 : S00290

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 during lifetime Miracles experienced by the saint Miraculous sound, smell, light Power over objects Miracle with animals and plants Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Miracle after death Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy


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).


Prudentius' Poem V of the Peristephanon is one of the three early 5th c. traditions on the martyrdom of Vincent, alongside three sermons of Augustine (E02247, E02255, E02256, E02262), and a Martyrdom of the saint (the extant versions of this Passio are probably later than Prudentius, but Augustine mentions another such account in his sermons). For a detailed comparison of these traditions, see Meyer 2012, 36-129. The poem is written in the iambic dimeter, the metre characteristic of Ambrosian hymns; probably because of that, this poem of Prudentius was later reused in composing the liturgical hymn for the feast of Vincent in the Old Hispanic Liturgy (see Castro Sánchez 2010, 849-850).


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: Castro Sánchez, J., Hymnodia hispanica (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 167; Turnhout 2010). 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). Meyer, S., Der heilige Vinzenz von Zaragoza: Studien zur Präsenz eines Märtyrers zwischen Spätantike und Hochmittelalter (Stuttgart, 2012). 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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