University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E05585: Venantius Fortunatus writes a poem on a church of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050), restored and enlarged by a couple (Baudegund and Basilius), possibly near Poitiers (western Gaul). Poem 1.7, written in Latin in Gaul, 565/576.

online resource
posted on 2018-05-29, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Venantius Fortunatus, Poems 1.7 (In honorem basilicae Sancti Martini quam aedificaverunt Basilius et Baudegundis, 'In honour of the church of Saint Martin that Basilius and Baudegund built')

Discite, mortales, fidei nihil esse quod obstet,
   cum sacra templa dei flumine fixa manent:
pulchra per angustos ut surgeret aula meatus,
   etsi mons vetuit, praebuit nuda locum:
ut famularetur domui vaga lympha supernae,                    5
   cursibus antiquas ars nova subdit aquas.
Cum Baudegunde quo mente Basilius una
   hoc renovans priscum reddit et auget opus.
Sic, Martine, tuus honor amplus ubique meretur,
   ut loca nulla negent, quo tibi festa sonent.                     10
Talibus officiis pacatus, opime sacerdos,
   quorum vota vides, redde benigne vicem.

'Learn, mortals, that nothing can be an obstacle to faith, since a holy church of God stands fixed and firm in a river. For a splendid basilica to rise up in a narrow defile, though a mountain forbade it, a river provided the space; (5) for the wandering wave to pay service to the heavenly abode, a new art constrained in their course the waters of old. There Basil of one mind with Baudegund, restored anew the ancient structure and enlarged it. (9) So, Martin, your abundant glory everywhere merits that no place refuse to let your festivities ring out. In gratitude for such services, glorious bishop, recompense generously those whose vows you see performed.'

Text: Leo 1881, 11. Translation: Roberts 2017, 25 and 27.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Poems


  • 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 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


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives



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.


Fortunatus later wrote Basilius' epitaph, at the request of Baudegund (Poem 4.18), in which it is recorded that he was active in royal service, particularly on embassies to Spain. The church restored by the couple was presumably built on land reclaimed from a river. Reydellet 1994-2004, vol. 1, 169, n. 31, identifies the church as that at Saint-Martin-la-Rivière, near Poitiers, which is possible given Fortunatus' close connection with this city.


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: Boissavit-Camus, B., "Poitiers," 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), 65-92. Brennan, B., "The Career of Venantius Fortunatus," Traditio 41 (1985), 49-78. 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).

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager