Venantius Fortunatus, Poems 4.5 (Epitaphium Ruriciorum episcoporum civitatis Limovecinae, 'Epitaphs of the Ruricii, bishops of the city of Limoges'), 13-14
Within a 22-line poem praising the two Ruricii are these two lines:
Actu, mente, gradu, spe, nomine, sanguine nexi,
exultant pariter hinc avus, inde nepos.
Tempore quisque suo fundans pia templa patroni 13
iste Augustini, condidit ille Petri.
'In action, thought, status, hope, name and blood connected, they share a common joy, here the grandfather, there the grandson. Each in his lifetime built a sacred shrine to his patron: one [Ruricius, the elder] founded a church to Augustine, the other [Ruricius, the younger] a church to Peter.'
Text: Leo 1881, 82. Translation: Roberts 2017, 223, modified.
Saint NameAugustine, bishop of Hippo, ob. 430 : S00077
Peter the Apostle : S00036
Saint Name in SourceAugustinus
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Poems
Evidence not before565
Evidence not after576
Activity not before485
Activity not after560
Place of Evidence - RegionGaul and Frankish kingdoms
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Tours
Major author/Major anonymous workVenantius Fortunatus
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsConstruction of cult buildings
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - bishops
SourceVenantius 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.
DiscussionThe elder Ruricius was bishop of Limoges c. 485 - c. 506; the younger, his grandson, was bishop in the second quarter of the 6th century. For Ruricius, the elder and younger, see PCBE 4, 'Ruricius 1', pp. 1635-1649; 'Ruricius 2', pp. 1650-1651.
Both churches mentioned in this epitaph are attested in the 11th century. For details, see Prévot 1989, 76. The dedication of a church to Augustine as early as around AD 500 (and the Latin does suggest that this was the work of the elder Ruricius) is striking.
BibliographyEditions 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).
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).
Prévot, F., "Limoges," in N. Gauthier and J.-Ch. Picard (eds.), Topographie chrétienne des cités de la Gaule des origines au milieu du VIIIe siècle, vol. 6: Provinces ecclésiastique de Bourges (Aquitania Prima) (Paris, 1989), 67-77.
Roberts, M., The Humblest Sparrow: The Poetry of Venantius Fortunatus (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009).