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E04350: Prudentius, in his Latin Crowns of the Martyrs (Peristephanon), written c. 400 in Calahorra (northern Spain), in a poem on the martyrdom of the Apostles *Peter and *Paul (S00036 and S00008), describes their basilicas in Rome and mentions the custom of visiting both of them on the day of the feast.

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posted on 2017-11-09, 00:00 authored by mszada
Liber Peristephanon, Poem XII.29-56

Diuidit ossa duum Tybris sacer ex utraque ripa,
30 inter sacrata dum fluit sepulcra.
Dextra Petrum regio tectis tenet aureis receptum
canens oliua, murmurans fluento;
namque supercilio saxi liquor ortus excitauit
fontem perennem chrismatis feracem.
35 Nunc pretiosa ruit per marmora lubricatque cliuum,
donee uirenti fluctuet colymbo.
Interior tumuli pars est, ubi lapsibus sonoris
stagnum niuali uoluitur profundo.
Omnicolor uitreas pictura superne tinguit undas,
40 musci relucent et uirescit aurum
cyaneusque latex umbram trahit inminentis ostri;
credas moueri fluctibus lacunar.
Pastor oues alit ipse illic gelidi rigore fontis,
uidet sitire quas fluenta Christi.
45 Parte alia titulum Pauli uia seruat Ostiensis
qua stringit amnis caespitem sinistrum.
Regia pompa loci est, princeps bonus has sacrauit arces
lusitque magnis ambitum talentis.
Bratteolas trabibus subleuit, ut omnis aurulenta
50 lux esset intus ceu iubar sub ortu.
Subdidit et Parias fulvis laquearibus columnas,
distinguit illic quas quaternus ordo.
Tum camiros hyalo insigni uarie cucurrit arcus;
sic prata uernis floribus renident.
55 Ecce duas fidei summo patre conferente dotes
urbi colendas quas dedit togatae.

'Tiber separates the bones of the two and both its banks are consecrated as it flows between the hallowed tombs. (31) The quarter on the right bank took Peter into its charge and keeps him in a golden dwelling, where there is the grey of olive-trees and the sound of a stream; for water rising from the brow of a rock has revealed a perennial spring which makes them fruitful in the holy oil. (35) Now it runs over costly marbles, gliding smoothly down the slope till it billows in a green basin. There is an inner part of the memorial where the stream falls with a loud sound and rolls along in a deep, cold pool. (39) Painting in diverse hues colours the glassy waves from above, so that mosses seem to glisten and the gold is tinged with green, while the water turns dark blue where it takes on the semblance of the overhanging purple, and one would think the ceiling was dancing on the waves. There the shepherd himself nurtures his sheep with the ice-cold water of the pool, for he sees them thirsting for the rivers of Christ. (45) Elsewhere the Ostian Road keeps the memorial church of Paul, where the river grazes the land on its leftbank. The splendour of the place is princely, for our good emperor dedicated this seat and decorated its whole extent with great wealth. He laid plates on the beams so as to make all the light within golden like the sun's radiance at its rising, and supported the gold-panelled ceiling on pillars of Parian marble set out there in furrows. (53) Then he covered the curves of the arches with splendid glass of different hues, like meadows that are bright with flowers in the spring. There you have two dowers of the faith, the gift of the Father supreme, which He has given to the city of the toga to reverence.'

Text: Cunningham 1966: 380. Translation: Thomson 1953: 325-327.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Paul, the Apostle : S00008 Peter the Apostle : S00036

Saint Name in Source

Paulus Petrus

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)


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: 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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