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E05420: Venantius Fortunatus, in his Miracles of Hilary, describes how *Hilary (bishop of Poitiers, ob. 367, S00183) rejected the wax given at his tomb in Poitiers by a reluctant donor. Written in Latin in Poitiers (western Gaul), 567/568.

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posted on 2018-05-13, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Venantius Fortunatus, Miracles of Hilary (Libri de virtutibus sancti Hilarii) 11 (30-33)

Itaque cum duo negotiatores ad beati basilicam occurrissent habentes formam cerae quasi socialiter in commune, quidam ex his alloquitur alterum, ut eam etsi tam parvam rem tamen tanto confessori vel libenter offerrent. Sed in cassum sua verba in animo socii nolentis expendit. Ipse tamen cum collega suo in oratione prosternitur, ceram occulte ante tremendi sepulchri cancellos exponit. Mox ad omnem aequalitatem cerae ipsius species se divisit et, parte illius fidelis oblatoris accepta, pars altera videntibus plurimis volvendo usque ad alios cancellos nutu divino cum omni contumelia est repulsa: quasi nolens sanctus invadere, quod alter illi devotus non obtulit, quoniam semper abhorruit quod ex fide non venit, tam certus in iudicio quam misericors est in voto ... Tunc itaque ille qui offere noluit admissi criminis se teste confusus et inmensi pudoris reatu perculsus, videns sibi a radice suae conscientiae tantae turpitudinis opprobia pullulasse, et in faciem suam occultae cogitationis facinora revelata adspexit, consideravit, ingemuit et flevit, ut saltim lacrimarum fonte rigante dilueret, quod corde delinquente foedavit. Qui postea maiora obtulit exactus, cerae iudicio castigante.

'Two merchants went to the church of the blessed [Hilary]. Since they together had a block of wax as if in common, one of them said to the other that they should generously offer it to the great confessor, even though it was such a small gift. But he spoke his words in vain to his friend who was unwilling in his heart. So while the first merchant knelt with his companion in prayer, he secretly placed the wax before the railing around that fearsome tomb. Soon the shape of that wax divided itself into equal halves; the half from this faithful donor was accepted, but the other half was rejected at God’s command with complete disgust. Everyone was watching as this half rolled all the way to the opposite railing, as if the saint did not wish to accept what the other man had not offered to him in piety. Because [Hilary] has always rejected what does not proceed from faith, he is as sure in his judgement as he is merciful in [answering] prayers ... Then the man who did not wish to offer [the wax] was convicted by his own testimony in admitting his crime and was overwhelmed by the guilt of his enormous shame. He realized that such a disgraceful dishonour had sprouted in the roots of his own conscience, and he saw the crimes of his secret thoughts revealed in his own face. He meditated, he moaned, and he wept [so much] that as the fountain of his tears flowed, he at least washed away the pollution caused by his delinquent heart. Then, because the judicial examination over the wax corrected him, he urgently brought greater gifts.'

Text: Krusch 1885, 10-11. Translation: Van Dam 1993, 160, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Hilarius/Hilary, bishop of Poitiers, ob. 367 : S00183

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Poitiers Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Major author/Major anonymous work

Venantius Fortunatus

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Power over objects

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Merchants and artisans


Venantius Fortunatus was born in northern Italy, near Treviso, and educated in Ravenna. In the early 560s he crossed the Alps into Merovingian Gaul, where he spent the rest of his life, making his living primarily through writing Latin poetry for the aristocracy of northern Gaul, both secular and ecclesiastical. His first datable commission in Gaul is a poem to celebrate the wedding in 566 of the Austrasian royal couple, Sigibert and Brunhild. His principal patrons were Radegund and Agnes, the royal founder and the first abbess of the monastery of the Holy Cross at Poitiers, Gregory, the historian and bishop of Tours, Leontius, bishop of Bordeaux, and Felix, bishop of Nantes, but he also wrote poems for several kings and for many other members of the aristocracy. In addition to occasional poems for his patrons, Fortunatus wrote a four-book epic poem about Martin of Tours, and several works of prose and verse hagiography. The latter part of his life was spent in Poitiers, and, probably in the 590s, he became bishop of the city; he is presumed to have died early in the 7th century. Fortunatus' Miracles of Hilary (Liber de virtutibus sancti Hilarii) consists of thirteen very short chapters describing only nine miracles. The work is a complement to his Life of Hilary (see E06713). Both the Miracles and the Life are dedicated to Pascentius, bishop of Poitiers, which enables us to date their composition with some precision to 567/568, since Fortunatus almost certainly arrived in Poitiers in 567, while Pascentius died, and was succeeded as bishop by Meroveus, in 568. Gregory of Tours used the Life and Miracles, in Glory of the Confessors 2 (see E02452) and Histories 2.37 (see E02032).


Edition: Krusch, B., Venanti Honori Clementiani Fortunati presbyteri Italici Opera pedestria (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi 4.2; Berolini: Apud Weidmannos, 1885). Translation: Van Dam, R., Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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