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E00884: Prudentius, in his Latin Crowns of the Martyrs (Peristephanon), written c. 400 in Calahorra (northern Spain), in a poem on *Vincent (deacon and martyr of Saragossa and Valencia, S00290), describes the grave, altar and church built around the body of Vincent on the shore of Sagunto near Valencia (eastern Spain) and refers to him as being in heaven in the company of the *Maccabean Martyrs (pre-Christian Jewish martyrs of Antioch, S00303) and *Isaiah (Old Testament prophet, S00282).

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posted on 2015-11-24, 00:00 authored by mszada
Liber Peristephanon, Poem V.505-524

The governor wants to prevent cult arising around Vincent's dead body. He first exposes it to the wild beasts (see E00883) and then throws it into the sea. The body is however miraculously carried to the shore.

Felix amoeni litoris
secessus ille, qui sacra
fouens harenis uiscera
uicem sepulcri praebuit,

dum cura sanctorum pia
deflens adornat aggerem
tumuloque corpus creditum
uitae reseruat posterae!

Sed mox subactis hostibus
iam pace iustis reddita
altar quietem debitam
praestat beatis ossibus;

subiecta nam sacrario
imamque ad aram condita
caelestis auram muneris
perfusa subter hauriunt.

Sic corpus, ast ipsum Dei
sedes receptum continet
cum Maccabeis fratribus
sectoque Eseiae proximum.

'Happy that pleasant-shored bay which cherished the sacred flesh in its sands and then offered a burial place, till the pious care of the saints with many tears provided a mounded grave and committed the body to it, to keep it for the life to come! But later, when their enemies were subdued and peace given back to the righteous, an altar ensured to the blessed bones the rest that was their due; for laid under the sanctuary, buried at the foot of the altar, they drink in the aura of the heavenly offering, which is shed on them there below. Thus the body; but the martyr himself was received into the dwelling-place of God, which holds him in company with the Maccabean brothers and beside Isaiah who was cut asunder.'

In the following verses it is explained that the Maccabean Brothers and Isaiah suffered a similar death to that of Vincent, but he exceeds them because of the humiliation to which his body was exposed after death.

Text: Cunningham 1966: 311-312. Translation: Thomson 1953, 198-201, adapted. Summary: M. Tycner.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Vincent, deacon and martyr of Saragossa and Valencia, ob. c. 305 : S00290 Maccabean Brothers, 2nd-century BC Jewish martyrs in Antioch : S00303 Isaiah, Old Testament prophet : S00282

Saint Name in Source

fratres Machabei Esaia

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 - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Destruction/hostile attempts to prevent veneration of relics

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


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 poem see E00858. We learn from Peristephanon IV, that Vincent was buried in Sagunto, near Valencia (see E00813). This is where the grave, altar and shrine (sacrarium) mentioned here were located. This set of sacral arrangement was apparently the obvious way of commemorating a martyr in the times of Prudentius. In the quoted passage Prudentius refers again (see E00882) to the idea that saints who suffered a similar martyrdom were companions in heaven.


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). 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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