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E07847: Venantius Fortunatus, in a poem for the feast day of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050), depicts Martin in heaven with Christ, *Peter (the Apostle, S00036), *Paul (the Apostle, S00008), *Eugenia (virgin and martyr of Rome, S00401), and *Radegund (former queen and monastic founder, ob. 587, S00182), who had died not long before the composition of the poem. Poem 10.7, written in Latin in Gaul, 587/588.

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posted on 2020-01-23, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Venantius Fortunatus, Poems 10.7 (Ad Childebercthum regem et Brunchildem reginam, de natali sancti Martini pontificis Toronici, 'To King Childebert and Queen Brunhild, on the feast day of Saint Martin, bishop of Tours'), 13-30

Venantius begins the poem (lines 1-12) by proclaiming the feast day of Martin, and that the whole world – India, the Spanish, the Moor, the Persian and the Briton – knows about his merits. The East and the West, Africa and the North claim possession of him. He then depicts Martin in heaven:

Per cinerem ascendens, per dura cilicia caelos
   stat modo gemmatus, pauper in orbe prius,
quo patriarcharum decus est radiantque prophetae,                15
   quo est sacra turba senum bis duodena patrum,
inter apostolicum numerum rutilante senatu
   quo sedet ipse throno, rex sibi Christus amor,
quo excellit cum clave Petrus, cum dogmate Paulus,
   fulget et in reliquis palma corona fides,                               20
quo loca martyribus vernanti lumine florent
   atque libro vitae est scriptus honore cruor,
quo confessores gemmata palatia complent
   aeternumque tenent aurea tecta diem,
stat quoque post lacrimas ubi nunc Radegundis opima,            25
   forsan et Eugeniam nunc tenet illa manu:
hos inter Martinus habet diademata pulcher
   atque sacris lumbis fulgida zona viret,
cantat et egregios Christi de morte triumphos
   atque resurgenti plaudit amore deo.                                  30

'Having mounted to heaven by ashes and by rough hair shirts, he now takes his place bejeweled, though previously poor in the world, where are found the glory of the patriarchs and the brilliance of the prophets, where too is the holy company of twenty-four elders, and among the group of the apostles, in the presence of the brilliant senate, where sits enthroned the king Christ, their love, where Peter has preeminence with his key and Paul with his teaching, and among the others, palm, crown, and faith shine bright, where the land flowers with the blossoming light of the martyrs, and their blood is inscribed in the book of life in their honor, where confessors crowd the jewel-encrusted palace, and the golden roofs enclose the light of eternal day, where noble Radegund now takes her place after our tears, and perhaps how holds Eugenia by the hand. Among all these Martin in his finery wears a diadem and a sparkling belt shines green round the holy man's waist; there he sings of the glorious triumph of Christ over death, and lovingly acclaims the resurrection of God.'

For the remainder of the poem, depicting Martin as the patron of Childebert and Brunhild, see E05758.

Text: Leo 1881, 239. Translation: Roberts 2017, 669.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397 : S00050 Eugenia, virgin and martyr of Rome, and companions : S00401 Paul, the Apostle : S00008 Peter, the Apostle : S00036 Radegund, former queen of the Franks and monastic founder, ob. 587 : S00182

Saint Name in Source

Martinus Eugenia Petrus Paulus Radegundis

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 - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of an individual

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Monarchs and their family Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


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 (on which see also E05758) was written to commemorate the feast day of Martin of Tours, and to portray him as the patron of King Childebert (r. 575-595) and his mother Queen Brunhild. It was written not long after the death of Radegund on 13 August 587 (date given by Gregory of Tours, Histories 9.2, E07783): it has often been dated to 588 on the assumption that Fortunatus accompanied Gregory of Tours on a visit to Childebert and Brunhild that Gregory is known to have made in that year (Histories 9.20), but this is conjectural. In this passage, Fortunatus depicts Martin in glory among the saints in heaven, contrasting this with the humility of his earthly life. However, the most striking aspect of the passage is that among the saints depicted with Martin in heaven, alongside Peter, Paul, and unnamed patriarchs and prophets, is Radegund (paired by Fortunatus with the Roman martyr Eugenia). Fortunatus makes it clear in the words he uses about Radegund that the poem was written when her death was a recent event (stat quoque post lacrimas ubi nunc Radegundis opima, 'where noble Radegund now takes her place after our tears'). The title of the poem refers to Martin's natalis, which if interpreted strictly refers to 11 November, the commemoration of his death (as opposed to his other major feast, 4 July, which commemorated the translation of his body). The poem can therefore be dated quite closely: it was composed for either 11 November 587, or (if it is associated with the visit recorded by Gregory) 11 November 588. In the first case it would have been written within weeks of Radegund's death, in the second not much more than a year afterwards; in either case it is likely to be the earliest literary evidence depicting her as a 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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