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E00942: Prudentius, in his Latin Crowns of the Martyrs (Peristephanon), written c. 400 in Calahorra (northern Spain) in a poem on the martyrdom of *Cassianus (teacher and martyr of Imola, ob. 361/363, S00309) tells of his visit to the tomb of Cassianus and of an image depicting the saint's martyrdom there.

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posted on 07.12.2015, 00:00 by mtycner
Liber Peristephanon, Poem IX.3-20

Hic mihi, cum peterem te, rerum maxima Roma,
spes est oborta prosperum Christum fore.
5 Stratus humi tumulo aduoluebar quem sacer ornat
martyr dicato Cassianus corpore.
Dum lacrimans mecum reputo mea uulnera et omnes
uitae labores ac dolorum acumina,
erexi ad caelum faciem, stetit obuia contra
10 fucis colorum picta imago martyris
plagas mille gerens, totos lacerata per artus,
ruptam minutis praeferens punctis cutem.
Innumeri circum pueri (miserabile uisu)
confossa paruis membra figebant stilis,
15 unde pugillares soliti percurrere ceras
scholare murmur adnotantes scripserant.

Aedituus consultus ait: "Quod prospicis, hospes,
non est inanis aut anilis fabula.
historiam pictura refert, quae tradita libris
20 ueram uetusti temporis monstrat fidem."

'Here when I was journeying towards thee, Rome, the world's capital, there sprang up in my heart a hope of Christ's favour. I was bowed to the ground before the tomb which the holy martyr Cassianus honours with his consecrated body; and while in tears I was thinking of my sins and all my life's distresses and stinging pains, I lifted my face towards heaven, and there stood confronting me a picture of the martyr painted in colours, bearing a thousand wounds, all his parts torn, and showing his skin broken with tiny pricks. Countless boys round about (a pitiful sight!) were stabbing and piercing his body with the little styluses with which they used to run over their wax tablets, writing down the droning lesson in school. I appealed to the verger and he said: "What you are looking at, stranger, is no vain old wife's tale. The picture tells the story of what happened; it is recorded in books and displays the honest assurance of the olden time."'

Text: Cunningham 1966: 326. Translation: Thomson 1953, 220-223.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Cassian, bishop of Brescia (Italy), teacher and martyr of Imola, ob. 361/363 : S00309

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Poems Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Iberian Peninsula

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Calahorra Osset Osset Osen (castrum) Osser castrum

Major author/Major anonymous work


Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Descriptions of images of saints

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people


Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348–after 405) was a Christian aristocrat from Calahorra in the Spanish province of Tarraconensis. He was a high official in the imperial bureaucracy in Rome, but withdrew from public life, returned to Calahorra, and dedicated himself to the service and celebration of God. Most of what we know about his biography comes from the preface to the ensemble of his works, which can be reliably dated to 404 (Cunningham 1966, 1-2), and other autobiographical remarks scattered throughout his works (for a detailed discussion, see Palmer 1989, 6-31). He composed several poetical works, amongst them the Peristephanon (literally, On the Crowns [of the Martyrs]), a collection of fourteen poems of different length describing martyrdoms of saints. We do not know exactly at which point in his literary career Prudentius wrote the preface (possibly at the very end, just before publication); for attempts at a precise dating of the Peristephanon, see Fux 2013, 9, n. 1. The poems in the Peristephanon, written in elegant classical metres, deal mainly with martyrs from Spain, but some of them are dedicated to saints of Rome, Africa and the East. The poems were widely read in the late antique and medieval West, and had a considerable influence on the diffusion of cult of the saints included. In later periods they were sometimes used as hymns in liturgical celebrations and had an impact on the development of the Spanish hymnody. Some indications in the poems suggest that they were written to commemorate the saints on their feast days, but Prudentius probably did not compose them for the liturgy of his time. Rather, they probably provided 'devotional reading matter for a cultured audience outside a church context' (Palmer 1989, 3; see also Chapter 3 in her book).


Editions of the Peristephanon: Cunningham, M.P., Prudentii Carmina (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 126; Turnhout: Brepols, 1966), 251-389. Bergman, J., Prudentius, Carmina (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 61; Vienna, 1926), 291-431. Translations of the Peristephanon: Eagan, C., Prudentius, Poems (Fathers of the Church 43; Washington D.C.: Catholic University Press, 1962), 95-280. English translation. Thomson, H.J., Prudentius, vol. 2 (Loeb Classical Library; London Cambridge, Mass: W. Heinemann; Harvard University Press, 1953), 98-345. Edition and English translation. Further reading: Fux, P.-Y., Prudence et les martyrs: hymnes et tragédie. Peristephanon 1. 3-4. 6-8. 10. Commentaire, (Fribourg: Academic Press, 2013). Malamud, M.A., A Poetics of Transformation: Prudentius and Classical Mythology (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989). Palmer, A.-M., Prudentius on the Martyrs (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989). Roberts, M., Poetry and the Cult of the Martyrs: The "Liber Peristephanon" of Prudentius (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993).

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