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E07839: At the beginning of his Miracles of Hilary, written in Latin, Venantius Fortunatus explains that he recorded the contemporary miracles of *Hilary (bishop of Poitiers, ob. 367, S00183) to prevent them being forgotten, as Hilary's past miracles had been. Written in Poitiers (western Gaul), AD 567/568.

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posted on 2019-12-10, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Venantius Fortunatus, Miracles of Hilary (Libri de virtutibus sancti Hilarii) 1-2 (3-5)

(3) ... Praesertim ubi diversa diversarum partium videtur esse causa mercedum, quod gentiles fructum laboris sui in inanitatum favore voluerunt consistere, nos autem oporteat in beatorum virorum intercessione plantare, quibus hic verba si solvimus, illic gaudia comparamus. (4) Idcirco reddat illi mobilis lingua praeconium, a quo prius pectora conceperunt affectum; nam bonis eius aperte credetur invideri, si quae de illo cognovimus, silentio videantur abscondi. merito itaque cum ceteris et me de se loqui compellit, qui etiam mutos ut loquantur absolvit. (5) Sed quam plura superstis in corpore fecerit vel quanta operatus sit, postquam aeterna in requie plaudentibus angelis ad Christum victor de mundi certamine transmigravit, etsi non potui annorum vetustate subripiente contingere, attamen vel quae praesenti tempore miracula misericors praebuit, cupio indigenti memoriae non fraudare: ut quisquis haec fideli sicut condecet auditu perceperit. et praeterita recognoscere gaudeat et similia fieri virtute confessoris in futuro confidat.

'(3.) ... Distinctions between the different factions seem especially to be the reason for [different] rewards: while pagans have preferred to entrust the fruit of their labor to the support of ineffective men, it is necessary to entrust ourselves to the intercession of the blessed men whose joy we share there [in heaven] if we address words to them here [on earth]. (4.) Therefore let the nimble tongue of heralds again speak about that [Hilary] for whom my heart previously developed an affection; for he is clearly believed to be envied for his good deeds [even] if what I know about him seems to be concealed in silence. As a result he who healed the mute so that they might speak has in addition deservedly compelled me to speak about himself. (5.) But the passage of the years was a thief, and I was unable to discover his many deeds while he was alive in his body and his great accomplishments after he migrated to Christ and the angels who applaud him in eternal rest as a victor from the struggles of this world. Therefore I do not wish to cheat our impoverished memory of the miracles that [Hilary] in his mercy has displayed during the present time. Then everyone who listens to these miracles as is proper with trusting ears either may rejoice in recognizing past events or may believe that similar miracles will happen in the future through the confessor’s power.'

Text: Krusch 1885. Translation: Van Dam 1993.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Hilarius/Hilary, bishop of Poitiers, ob. 367 : S00183

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles


  • 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, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Poitiers Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Major author/Major anonymous work

Venantius Fortunatus

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy


Venantius Fortunatus was born in northern Italy, near Treviso, and educated in 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, 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, probably in the 590s, he became bishop of the city; he is presumed to have died early in the 7th century. Fortunatus' Miracles of Hilary (Liber de virtutibus sancti Hilarii) consists of thirteen very short chapters describing only nine miracles. The work is a complement to his Life of Hilary (see E06713). Both the Miracles and the Life are dedicated to Pascentius, bishop of Poitiers, which enables us to date their composition with some precision to 567/568, since Fortunatus almost certainly arrived in Poitiers in 567, while Pascentius died, and was succeeded as bishop by Meroveus, in 568. Gregory of Tours used the Life and Miracles, in Glory of the Confessors 2 (see E02452) and Histories 2.37 (see E02032).


Venantius Fortunatus begins the Miracles of Hilary by offering it to Bishop Pascentius of Poitiers, followed by a passage of self-justification, in which he compares his own literary endeavours to those of pagan authors who are admired even though their worldly subject matter is inferior to the deeds of the saints. He goes on, in the passage quoted here, to mention the intercessory power of the saints, before describing how he has a duty to preserve the memory of Hilary's miracles in his time and not to allow them to be forgotten as those in Hilary's own lifetime have been.


Edition: Krusch, B., Venanti Honori Clementiani Fortunati presbyteri Italici Opera pedestria (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi 4.2; Berolini: Apud Weidmannos, 1885). Translation: Van Dam, R., Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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