Venantius Fortunatus, Poems 8.12 (Ad eundem [= Gregorium episcopum] pro causa abbatissae, 'To the same person, in the cause of the abbess'), 5-9
Venantius recounts the disturbances in the monastery of the Holy Cross in Poitiers after the death of the founder Radegund and the abbess Agnes.
Tu tamen, alme pater, pietatis amore labora 5
ut sacer antistes, culmina cuius habes,
unde repraesentes Martinum in tempore sacrum,
cursibus atque fide dando salutis opem.
'You then, kindly father [Gregory], strive from your love of piety, like the holy bishop whose high office you possess, to make saintly Martin present in the here and now by bringing the means for salvation by your holy offices and by your faith.'
Text: Leo 1881, 197. Translation: Roberts 2017, 539.
Saint NameMartin, ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397 : S00050
Saint Name in SourceMartinus
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Poems
Evidence not before589
Evidence not after589
Activity not before589
Activity not after589
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 - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPrayer/supplication/invocation
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - bishops
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.
DiscussionThe events alluded to by Venantius in this poem were the disturbances in the monastery of the Holy Cross in Poitiers after the death of Radegund and her successor as abbess, Agnes. The dispute happened in 589 and is described by Gregory of Tours in his Histories 9.39-43 and 10.15-17.
On Fortunatus' poems to Gregory of Tours, see George 1992, 124-131; Roberts 2009, 269-283; Roberts 2015.
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.
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).
Roberts, M., "Venantius Fortunatus and Gregory of Tours: Poetry and Patronage," in: A.C. Murray (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2015), 35-59.