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E07845: Venantius Fortunatus, in a prose letter to Martin, bishop of Galicia (i.e. Martin of Braga, ob. 580), included in his collection of Poems, requests that Martin should pray for the intercession of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) on behalf of himself, Radegund and Agnes (the founder and abbess respectively of the convent of the Holy Cross at Poitiers). Poem 5.1, written in Latin in Gaul, 565/576.

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posted on 2020-01-22, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Venantius Fortunatus, Poems 5.1 (Ad Martinum episcopum Galliciae, 'To Martin, bishop of Galicia'), § 10

This letter presumably accompanied the poem in praise of Martin of Braga which follows in the collection (5.2).

Et quia vestris litteris fiduciae pignus accepi, pietati vestrae filias et famulas Agnem et Radegundem una mecum devote earum desiderio mandato commendo, communiter supplicantes, ut apud domnum Martinum pro nobis verba faciens tam fidus intercessor accedas qualis apud dominum ipse tunc promptus extitit, cum cadaver exanimum non prius dimitteret quam mors mortuum dimisisset (est enim ratio consequens, ut per vos illinc nobis redeat spes patrocinii, quia ad vos hinc prodiit pars patroni) ...

'And because with your letters I have received a guarantee to trust in you, I devoutly commend to your holiness along with myself your daughters and servants Agnes and Radegund in accordance with their expressed desire, all of us together entreating that before lord Martin you speak on our behalf and come forward as just as trusty an intercessor as he showed himself to be when without hesitation he did not abandon a lifeless corpse until death had quit the dead. For it is logically consistent that the hope of patronage should come to us from where you are through you, because from where we are the function of a patron came to you.'

Text: Leo 1881, 103. Translation: Roberts 2017, 287.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters


  • 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 - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


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.


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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