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E00933: Latin poem on the martyrdom of *Quirinus (bishop and martyr of Siscia in Dalmatia, S00614) composed by Prudentius, writing c. 400 in Calahorra (northern Spain). The poem, part of Prudentius' Crowns of the Martyrs (Peristephanon), gives details about Quirinus' death by drowning.

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posted on 2015-12-04, 00:00 authored by mtycner
Liber Peristephanon, Poem VII


Prudentius says that the bishop and martyr Quirinus is buried in Siscia and describes his martyrdom: under the rule of Galerius, Quirinus is cast down from a bridge into the river with a mill stone attached to his neck. Miraculously, the river makes the stone float on its waves, to the astonishment of the crowds gathered at the banks. Quirinus gives thanks to God for the miracle, but asks for the grace of death. At his prayer the mill stone gets heavy and pulls Quirinus' body to the bottom of the river, while his soul ascends to heaven.

Text: Cunningham 1966: 321-324. Thomson 1953, 214-219. Summary: M. Tycner.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Quirinus, bishop and martyr at Siscia in Dalmatia, ob. 293/305 : S00614

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)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


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 poem on Quirinus differs from other in the collection, not at least through its length (the poem is much shorter than most of the other hymns). Prudentius evidently has no information about the martyr's cult in Siscia or anywhere else, and recounts only the story of his exceptional martyrdom. Strikingly, there is no mention of Quirinus' festival, and we can suspect that this particular text was not composed for liturgical purposes. Prudentius devotes long passages to the association between blood (of martyrdom) and water (of baptism). This association is also topic of the next poem concerning the baptistery in Prudentius' hometown Calahorra (E00934), and it is possible that he chose to commemorate Quirinus precisely because the story of his martyrdom was a suitable introduction to his next poem. The poem is written in the glyconics κατὰ στίχον, which is very rare – usually a glyconic verse is just a part of an Aeolic verse. Prudentius uses glyconics also in the preface to the Contra Symmachum. Probably, it should be perceived as a poetical experiment of Prudentius.


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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