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E05755: Venantius Fortunatus writes a poem recounting how a beam for the roof of a church of *Laurence/Laurentius (deacon and martyr of Rome, 0037) was miraculously lengthened, and how people were cured by wood cut from this beam. Poem 9.14, written in Latin in Gaul, 576/c. 591.

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posted on 2018-06-16, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Venantius Fortunatus, Poems 9.14 (De basilicae sancti Laurenti trabe, 'On a beam from the church of Saint Laurence'), 9-18

The poem opens with generalised praise of Laurence.

Addita nunc etiam populis miracula praestas.
   Ut fidei tribuas indubitanter opem.                         10
Dum tua templa novant breviori robore plebes,
   Creveruntque trabes crevit et alma fides:
stipite contracto tua se mercede tetendit:
   quantum parva prius, postea caesa fuit.
Crescere plus meruit succisa securibus arbor            15
   et didicit sicca longior esse coma.
Unde recisa fuit, populis fert inde salutem:
   si venit intrepidus, lumina caecus habet.

'Now too you offer up a further miracle for the populace to grant them without hesitating the blessing of faith. When the people were rebuilding your church, the timber was too short, but a beam grew in length, and along with it their loving faith. The wood was shrunken, but by your bounty it lengthened; a piece was cut off as small as had been its whole length before. A tree that was cut down by axes was able to increase in size and learned to become longer, though its foliage was withered and dry. From what was cut off he brought healing to the people; a blind man who approaches without fear regains sight.'

Text: Leo 1881, 218. Translation: Roberts 2017, 599.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Laurence/Laurentius, deacon and martyr of Rome : S00037

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 - Miracles

Miracle after death Power over objects Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people


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.


Gregory of Tours recounts this miracle in his Glory of the Martyrs 41 (see E00540), quoting this poem by Fortunatus. Gregory tells us that it occurred at 'Brionae', an unidentified place in Italy (apud Brionas Italiae castrum – castrum indicates a small fortified town or village).


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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