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E05758: Venantius Fortunatus, in a poem on the feast of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050), dedicated to King Childebert and Queen Brunhild, names Martin as their patron and outlines the protection and benefits that the saint can offer. Poem 10.7, written in Latin in Gaul, probably in 587/588.

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posted on 17.06.2018, 00:00 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'), 31-70

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 of his merits. The East and the West, Africa and the North claim possession of him. He then depicts Martin in heaven, with Christ, Peter, Paul and other saints (lines 13-30, on which see $E07847), before returning to the celebration of his feast day (line 31 onward).

Hunc quoque Martinum colitis quem, regna, patronum,
   vos hunc in terris, vos memor ille polis:
vos intra angelicas turmas canat ille sub astris,
   cui vos ante homines fertis honore diem.
Nomina vestra legat patriarchis atque prophetis                              35
   cui hodie in templo diptychus edit ebur.
Reddat apostolicos proceres reliquosque patronos
   quem vos hic colitis vel pia festa datis.
Pergat et ad Christum pro vobis ille precator
   cui vos in templis vota precando datis.                                        40
Ante poli referat sua haec sollemnia regem,
   dentur ut hinc vobis, regna, salutis opes.
Deputet et dominus vestrum hunc esse patronum,
   ut modo qui colitur vos colat huius amor.
Qui[que] dedit habitans miracula plurima terris,                               45
   distribuat vobis hic quoque mira potens.
Cuius gemmata est tunc dextera visa beati,
   vos simul et vestros protegat ila manus.
Qui tunc promeruit revocare cadavera vitae.
   Hic quoque pro vestra vota salute ferat.                                     50
Qui percusso homini abstraxit de carne venenum.
   Noxia de vobis ipse venena vetet.
Qui serpentis iter fecit revocare retrorsum,
   ipse graves casus hinc fuget ire retro.
Qui de peste domum salvam dedit esse Lyconti,                            55
   haec domus incolumis fioreat huius ope.
Cuius opima chlamys tremebundura texit egenum,
   eius apostolici vos tegat ala viri.
Qui viduae matri revocavit ad ubera natum,
   ipse tibi hic tribuat pignora, mater, ava,                                      60
ut Childeberethus maneat cum prole novella,
   rex sua regna tenens et nova regna trahens,
de genita ut videas genetrix, ut dulcius optas,
   deque nuru cara quod tua vota rogant:
unde hic felices habeant sua festa fideles                                       65
   et domini famulis sitis honoris apex,
quo tibi plus libeat, Brunichildis, habere patronum,
   quando domum et dominos servat in orbe pius.
Sic quoque te erudiat, regat et sic tramite ducat,
   actibus ipsa piis ut sibi iuncta mices.                                           70

'This too is the Martin whom, your majesties, you venerate as your patron; you remember him on earth, he you in heaven. May he sing of you in the stars among the angelic host, as you celebrate his feast day in the company of men. Today may he read your names before patriarchs and prophets, as today the ivory diptych pronounces his name in church. May he whom you venerate here and celebrate in holy festivals win the noble apostles and all that company as your patrons. May he to whom you offer suppliant prayers in churches approach Christ too as intercessor on your behalf. May he bring these devotions before the king of heaven, so that in this way, your majesties, the boon of well-being be granted to you, and may the Lord regard him as your patron, so that the love of him who is now being honored may protect you, and may he who while living on earth performed many miracles now too through his power bestow on you marvelous things. May the hand of the blessed man that appeared covered with jewels protect you and yours. May he who then had the power to bring back the dead to life, now too offer his prayers for your welfare. May he who drew out poison from the body of a snakebite victim banish insidious poison from you. May he who caused a serpent to turn back in its course drive back away from here burdensome misfortunes. May he who made the house of Lycontius safe from disease keep this house secure and flourishing through his aid. May the wing of that apostolic man spread over you, as his beneficent cloak covered a trembling poor man. May he who returned a son to the breast of his widowed mother grant you now children, to be both mother and grandmother, so that Childebert remain strong with his new offspring, maintaining his kingdom secure and adding new kingdoms to it, and so that you, his mother, see from your daughter and beloved daughter-in-law, as you dearly wish, what your prayers are seeking. Therefore may the faithful in felicity here hold their festival, and may you be supreme in honoring the servants of the Lord, so that you may take all the more pleasure, Brunhild, in having such a patron, when he preserves in his benevolence the house and its lords. May he so educate you, direct you, and rule your course that by your pious actions you shine in company with him.'

Text: Leo 1881, 240-241. Translation: Roberts 2017, 669 and 671.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Poems



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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of an individual

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Other specified miracle Power over life and death Healing diseases and disabilities Miracle with animals and plants Miraculous protection - of people and their property

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Women The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves)


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 E07847) was written shortly after the death of Radegund in 587. It may have been written after a visit by Venantius Fortunatus to the Austrasian court in 588. A journey to Metz (north-east Gaul) is recounted by Gregory of Tours in his Histories 9.20, but it is not proven that Fortunatus accompanied Gregory. Note the reference in lines 35-36 to the use of ivory diptychs to record the names of the saints. For the sources of the miracles of Martin mentioned here, see E05757.


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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