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E05634: Venantius Fortunatus, in a poem On the church of *Eutropis (bishop and martyr of Saintes, S00332) in Saintes (south-west Gaul), tells how Leontius, bishop of Bordeaux, magnificently restored the building, in 542/571. Poem 1.13, written in Latin in Gaul, 565/576.

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posted on 2018-06-02, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Venantius Fortunatus, Poems 1.13 (De basilica Sancti Eutropis, 'On the church of Saint Eutropis')

Quantus amor domini maneat tibi, papa Leonti,
   quem sibi iam sancti templa novare monent!
Eutropitis enim venerandi antistitis aula
   conruerat senio dilacerata suo,
nudatosque trabes paries vacuatus habebat,                    5
   pondere non tecti, sed male pressus aquis:
nocte sopore levi cuidam veniente ministro
   instauratorem te docet esse suum.
Pro mercede tui meruit magis ille moneri;
   o felix de quo fit pia cura deo!                                    10
Nunc meliore via viruit renovata vetustas,
   et lapsae fabricae flos redivivus adit.
Actas accessit, sed haec iuvenescit honore;
   unde senes fieret, iunior inde redit.
Is hic scalptae camerae decus interrasile pendit;               15
   quos pictura solet, ligna dedere iocos.
Sumpsit imagineas panes simulando figuras:
   quae neque tecta prius, haec modo picta nitent.
Urbis Santonicae primus fuit iste sacerdos,
   et tibi qui reparas iure priora dedit.                             20
Cum sua templa tenet sanctus habitando quiete,
   instauratori reddet amore vicem.

'How great a love is in store for you, Bishop Leontius, from the Lord, when now already the saints bid you restore their temples! For the church of the revered bishop Eutropis, broken down by old age, had tumbled into ruins, walls were laid bare and beams were exposed, caused to collapse not by the weight of the ceiling but by damp. (6) At night, the saint instructed one of the clergy, who was only lightly asleep, that you were to be his restorer. It was in honor of you that he was honored with the message. O happy the man who enjoys God’s loving concern! (11) Now the old, made new, is refreshed and improved, and the flower of its fallen fabric comes back to life once more. Its age has increased, but that age has the glory of youth; from its very years it returns all the younger. (15) Here is suspended a beautifully worked carved ceiling: wood has provided the pleasure that a picture usually provides. The wall has received images that imitate figures: what once was not even covered, now is radiant with paintings. This man was the first bishop of the city of Saintes, and to you who revive him he has rightly granted primacy. (21) Now the saint occupies his shrine, dwelling there in peace; out of love he will pay recompense to his restorer.'

Text: Leo 1881, 15. Translation: Roberts 2017, 35, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Eutropis, bishop and martyr of Saintes (Gaul) : S00332

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

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Commissioning/producing an image

Cult Activities - Miracles

Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy


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 building-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. This church of Eutropis was located in Saintes (see Février and Maurin 1998. 61; Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1976, 281-283). The name Eutropis is unusual, and is often given as the more common Eutropius, but Fortunatus' use in line 3 of the genitive form Eutropitis shows that he regarded the saint's name as Eutropis.


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., and Maurin, L., "Saintes," 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: De Boccard, 1998), 53-63. 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). Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., Les monuments religieux de la Gaule d'après les œuvres de Grégoire de Tours (Paris, 1976).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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