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E05760: Venantius Fortunatus mentions in a poem a 'hall' and 'villa' of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050); somewhere in the Touraine (north-west Gaul), probably in 589. Poem 10.11, written in Latin in Gaul, c. 589.

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posted on 2018-06-17, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Venantius Fortunatus, Poems 10.11 (In nomine Domini nostri Iesu Christi versus facti in mensa in villa sancti Martini ante discriptores, 'In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, verses composed at the table in the villa of Saint Martin, in the presence of the tax assessors'), 11-18

Venantius Fortunatus was a guest at a banquet, organised by the absent Gregory of Tours, for assessors of taxes (discriptores) in a 'villa of St Martin' (villa sancti Martini). A first reason for celebration was the Easter festivities (the occasion for the feast).

Additur hic aliud, quod Martini aula beati
   emicat haec ubi nunc prandia festa fluunt,
qui valuit gestis aures pulsare Tonantis,
   obtinet et meritis quod petit alta fides,
qui pie restituit defuncta cadavera vitae                         15
   atque Dei prompte praebet amicus opem;
cui successor ovans modo rite Gregorius extans,
   ille quod adquirit, hic regit ore, fide.

'A second reason is that it is the brilliant hall of blessed Martin where this festive banquet is now taking its course, he who was able to assail the ears of the Lord by his actions, and who obtains by his virtues whatever his profound faith seeks, who compassionately brought back the bodies of the dead to life, and as a friend of God readily offers his aid, whose joyful successor in due form now is Gregory; what his predecessor acquired he governs with words and faith.'

Text: Leo 1881, 245. Translation: Roberts 2017, 685.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397 : S00050

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 - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Feasting (eating, drinking, dancing, singing, bathing)

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Other

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Officials


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.


This poem was probably written in 589, when there was an attempt to re-impose taxes on Tours, an attempt that was strenuously resisted by Gregory, the historian and bishop of Tours 573-594 (see his Histories 9.30). The hall (aula) was presumably in the 'villa' of the title of the poem, presumably a rural property of the bishopric of Tours. It is not clear whether this villa and its hall were really known as the villa and hall 'of St Martin', or whether this is a descriptor of ownership, used here by Fortunatus in order to stress that the property of the bishopric of Tours, threatened by taxation, was actually the property of a great saint.


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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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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