Venantius Fortunatus, Poems 2.8 (De Launebode qui aedificavit templum Sancti Saturnini, 'On Launebodis, who built the church of Saint Saturninus'), 19-22
The poem opens with praise of Saturninus and a reference to his martyrdom by being tied to a bull and dragged through the city.
Sed locus ille quidem, quo sanctus vincula sumpsit,
nullius templi fultus honore fuit. 20
Launebodis enim post saecula longa, ducatum
dum gerit, instruxit culmina sancta loci.
Quod nullus veniens Romana gente fabrivit,
hoc vir barbarica prole peregit opus,
coniuge cum propria Berethrude, clara decore 25
pectore quae blando clarior ipsa nitet.
'But yet the place where the holy man [Saturninus] took on his bonds was not distinguished by the honor of a church. So after long ages Launebod, in the office of duke, constructed a sacred building on the spot. The work which no one descended from the Roman race performed, a man of barbarian ancestry brought to completion with his wife Beretrude, distinguished by her beauty, but still more brilliant by her sweetness of heart.'
The poem ends with praise for Beretrude's piety and charity, and for Launebod's merits and nobility.
Text: Leo 1881, 37. Translation: Roberts 2017, 89.
Saint NameSaturninus, bishop and martyr of Toulouse : S00289
Saint Name in SourceSaturninus
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Poems
Evidence not before565
Evidence not after576
Activity not before565
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 - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsConstruction of cult buildings
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesOfficials
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 a church of Saturninus in Toulouse constructed by Launebod, duke of Toulouse, along with his wife Beretrude. For the church, see Février 1989, 32, and Vieillard-Troiekouroff 1976, 298-300. From the wording of the poem, this church marked the principal place of Saturninus' martyrdom (the ancient Capitolium of Toulouse), where no previous church had stood; so that the city now commemorated the martyrdom through two churches: one (long-established) over his body; and this new church on the site of the martyrdom.
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).