Venantius Fortunatus, Poems 2.7 (De domno Saturnino, 'On lord Saturninus'), 31-38
The poem extols the virtues of Saturninus, before describing the most famous aspect of his martyrdom – how he was tied to a raging bull, which dragged him through the city, breaking up his body.
Hinc ferus inpatiens mox curva per avia raptus
passim membra pii fundit in urbe viri.
Tum mulier collegit ovans et condidit artus,
una sed famula participante sibi.
Haec fuit insignis rapiendae causa coronae, 35
gloria martyrii sic celebrata nitet.
Ante sepulchra pii dantur modo dona salutis
et corpus lacerum corpora multa fovet.
'So the animal in its rage quickly charging in twisting career scattered the limbs of the holy man [Saturninus] everywhere in the city. Then a woman joyfully gathered and buried his bodily remains, with only a single servant sharing in the task. (35) This was the illustrious cause of his winning the crown; the glory of his martyrdom enjoys such brilliant renown. Before the holy man's tomb to this day gifts of healing are granted, and his torn body now brings relief to many bodies.'
Text: Leo 1881, 35-36. Translation: Roberts 2017, 85.
Saint NameSaturninus, bishop and martyr of Toulouse : S00289
Saint Name in SourceSaturninus
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Poems
Evidence not before565
Evidence not after576
Activity not before251
Activity not after576
Place of Evidence - RegionGaul and Frankish kingdoms
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Tours
Major author/Major anonymous workVenantius Fortunatus
Cult activities - PlacesBurial site of a saint - tomb/grave
Cult Activities - MiraclesMiracle after death
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesWomen
Cult Activities - RelicsDiscovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics
Bodily relic - entire body
SourceVenantius 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.
DiscussionPoems 2.7 and 2.8 were probably written at the same moment, to celebrate the dedication of the church of Saturninus in Toulouse constructed by Launebod, duke of Toulouse. For the church, see Février 1989, 32, and Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1976, 298-300.
For the Martyrdom of Saturninus, see E05623.
BibliographyEditions 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).
Brennan, B., "The Career of Venantius Fortunatus," Traditio 41 (1985), 49-78.
Février, P.-A., "Toulouse," in: N. Gauthier and J.-Ch. Picard (eds.), Topographie chrétienne des cités de la Gaule des origines au milieu du VIIIe siècle, vol. 7: Province ecclésiastique de Narbonne (Narbonensis Prima) (Paris, 1989), 25-32.
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).