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E04222: Prudentius, in his Latin Crowns of the Martyrs (Peristephanon), written c. 400 in Calahorra (northern Spain), in a poem on the martyrdom of *Hippolytus (martyr of Rome, S00509), describes a church in the neighbourhood of the tomb of Hippolytus. The church is richly decorated because of the gifts of the pilgrims visiting the grave of the martyr.

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posted on 2017-10-27, 00:00 authored by mszada
Liber Peristephanon, Poem XI.215-230

215 Stat sed iuxta aliud, quod tanta frequentia templum
tunc adeat cultu nobile regifico,
parietibus celsum sublimibus atque superba
maiestate potens muneribusque opulens.
Ordo columnarum geminus laquearia tecti
220 sustinet auratis suppositus trabibus.
Adduntur graciles tecto breuiore recessus,
qui laterum seriem iugiter exsinuent.
At medios aperit tractus uia latior alti
culminis exsurgens editiore apice.
225 Fronte sub aduersa gradibus sublime tribunal
tollitur, antistes praedicat unde deum.
Plena laborantes aegre domus accipit undas
artaque confertis aestuat in foribus,
maternum pandens gremium quo condat alumnos
230 ac foveat fetos adcumulata sinus.

'But there stands close by another church (templum), renowned for its princely decoration, for the great multitude to enter then, a lofty church with towering walls, and a great one by reason of its proud grandeur, and gifts have made it rich. (219) A double row of pillars supporting gilded beams holds up the panelled roof, and there are also slender aisles with lower roof which stand back and widen the sides all along their length, while up the middle there stretches a broader passage-way making open space under a high roof, rising to a loftier top. (225) Facing you, at the top of some steps rises the pulpit from which the priest proclaims God. The building, even when it is full, scarcely admits the struggling waves of people, and there is turmoil in the confined space at the packed doorway when she opens her motherly arms to receive and comfort her children and they pile up on her teeming bosom.'

Text: Cunningham 1966: 377. Translation: Thomson 1953: 319-321.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Hippolytus, martyr of Rome : S00509

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

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives



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).


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: Brent, A., Hippolytus and the Roman Church in the Third Century: Communities in Tension before the Emergence of a Monarch-Bishop (Leiden: Brill, 1995). 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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