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E05612: Venantius Fortunatus, in a poem On lord *Nazarius (martyr of Milan, S00281), recounts how Leontius, bishop of Bordeaux (south-west Gaul), built a church in Bordeaux to the saint, in 542/571. Poem 1.10, written in Latin in Gaul, 565/576.

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posted on 2018-05-29, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Venantius Fortunatus, Poems 1.10 (De domno Nazario, 'On lord Nazarius')

Culmina conspicui radiant veneranda Nazari,
   cuius membra solum, spiritus astra tenet,
semine terrigeno terrenis usibus exsors,
   inmortale bonum pulvere natus homo,
nil carnale volens, sed Christi praemia poscens,             5
   sanguine de proprio victima digna deo.
Haec tibi templa sacer devota, Leontius offert
   maioremque suam hinc cupit esse domum.
Hic prius angusto fabricata est machina gyro,
   quo neque tunc poterat plebs veneranda capi:          10
deiectamque solo rursus fundavit ab imo,
   et dedit haec quae nunc amplificata placent.

'The sacred roofs of brilliant Nazarius spread their glow; his body occupies the earth, but his spirit the stars. Created from earthly seed but alien to earthly practices, he was a man born from dust but enjoying immortal blessing, desiring nothing freshly, but seeking the rewards of Christ, with his own blood a sacrifice worthy of God. (7) Leontius offers this church, holy man, dedicated to you, and in so doing desires a greater house for himself. Here previously a structure was built of narrow compass, where the holy congregation then could not be housed. (11) He razed it to the ground, built it again from its foundations, and provided this enlarged building which now wins applause.'

Text: Leo 1881, 13. Translation: Roberts 2017, 31.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Nazarius and Celsus, companion martyrs of Milan : S00281

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

Renovation and embellishment of cult buildings


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.


Leontius, bishop of Bordeaux, was a patron of Fortunatus and he and his buildiing-works are the subject of several of his poems, including two poems dedicated specifically to him (1.15 and 16), and one to his wife Placidina (1.17). He is first documented as bishop of Bordeaux in 541/549 and last documented in 561/567, but we do not know when he died. For Leontius see PCBE 4, 'Leontius 16', pp. 1145-1149; George 1992, 108-113. The earlier and humbler church that Leontius replaced with this church of the Milanese martyr Nazarius, was not necessarily dedicated to the same saint.


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. 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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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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