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E05584: Venantius Fortunatus writes a poem On the basilica of saint *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) in Bordeaux (south-west Gaul), built by Leontius, bishop of Bordeaux, and decorated by Placidina, his wife, in 542/564. Poem 1.6, written in Latin in Gaul, 565/576.

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posted on 29.05.2018, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Venantius Fortunatus, Poems 1.6 (De basilica Sancti Martini, 'On a church of Saint Martin'), 5-8, 21-22

Extracts:

Condidit ergo arvis delubra Leontius alma,              5
   talibus officiis intret ut ipse polos.
Martini mentis et nomine fulta coruscant,
   quem certum est terris signa dedisse poli.

'And so Leontius set up in the country a welcoming shrine so that by such services he might make his own way to heaven. It shines out brightly, firm in the name and merits of Martin, for he, it is certain, on earth gave intimations of heaven.'

The poet then describes how the church, set on a hill, overlooks all below it.

Quae Placidina sacris ornavit culmina velis.             21
   certantesque simul hic facit, illa colit.

'Placidina decked out the structure with sacred hangings; together in rivalry, he built the church, she decorated it.'


Text: Leo 1881, 10-11. Translation: Roberts 2017, 23 and 25.

History

Evidence ID

E05584

Saint Name

Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397 : S00050

Saint Name in Source

Martinus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Poems

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

565

Evidence not after

576

Activity not before

542

Activity not after

564

Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

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

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

Construction of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Women

Source

Venantius Fortunatus was born in northern Italy, near Treviso, and educated at 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, as well as 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 in the 590s he became bishop of the city; he is presumed to have died early in the 7th century. For Fortunatus' life, see Brennan 1985; George 1992, 18-34; Reydellet 1994-2004, vol. 1, vii-xxviii; PCBE 4, 'Fortunatus', 801-822. The eleven books of Poems (Carmina) by Fortunatus were almost certainly collected and published at three different times: Books 1 to 7, which are dedicated to Gregory of Tours, in 576; Books 8 and 9 after 584, probably in 590/591; and Books 10-11 only after their author's death. A further group of poems, outside the structure of the books, and known from only one manuscript, has been published in modern editions as an Appendix to the eleven books. For further discussion, see Reydellet 1994-2004, vol. 1, lxviii-lxxi; George 1992, 208-211. Almost all of Fortunatus' poems are in elegiac couplets: one hexameter line followed by one pentameter line. For the cult of saints, Fortunatus' poems are primarily interesting for the evidence they provide of the saints venerated in northern Gaul, since many were written to celebrate the completion of new churches and oratories, and some to celebrate collections of relics. For an overview of his treatment of the cult of saints, see Roberts 2009, 165-243.

Discussion

Bishop Leontius of this poem is Bishop Leontius II of Bordeaux, who was held the bishopric between 542 and 564. His wife Placidina, now in a chaste relationship, played an important role during his episcopate. For Leontius see PCBE 4: 'Leontius 16', pp. 1145-1149; George 1992, 108-113. The church of Martin in Bordeaux was located outside the city walls. For more information about it, see Février 1998, 31-32.

Bibliography

Editions and translations: Leo, F., Venanti Honori Clementiani Fortunati presbyteri Italici opera poetica (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi 4.1; Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1881). Roberts, M., Poems: Venantius Fortunatus (Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 46; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017). George, J., Venantius Fortunatus, Personal and Political Poems (Translated Texts for Historians 23; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1995). Reydellet, M., Venance Fortunat, Poèmes, 3 vols. (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1994-2004). Further reading: Brennan, B., "The Career of Venantius Fortunatus," Traditio 41 (1985), 49-78. Février, P.-A., "Bordeaux," in: N. Gauthier (ed.), Topographie chrétienne des cités de la Gaule des origines au milieu du VIIIe siècle, vol. 10: Province ecclésiastique de Bordeaux (Aquitania Secunda), (Paris, 1998), 19-33. George, J., Venantius Fortunatus: A Latin Poet in Merovingian Gaul (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992). Roberts, M., The Humblest Sparrow: The Poetry of Venantius Fortunatus (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009).

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