Venantius Fortunatus

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Poems by Venantius Fortunatus with two verses by the Irish scholar Dungal in the manuscript Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, C 74 sup., Fol. 28r (9th century)

Venantius Honorius Clementianus Fortunatus (* around 540 in Valdobbiadene near Treviso , † on December 14 between 600 and 610 in Poitiers ) was a poet and hagiographer of the Merovingian period and bishop of Poitiers.


Venantius is known as the last Roman poet of late antiquity ( Friedrich Leo ), but also as the first poet of the Middle Ages ( Franz Brunhölzl ). Both are justified, because the poet belongs to a transition period. He received a solid classical education in Ravenna , the seat of the Eastern Roman governor in Italy, and was well acquainted with the ancient models, including Virgil , Horace , Martial , Paulinus von Nola and Prudentius . In 565, the last year of the reign of Emperor Justinian , he went on a pilgrimage to Tours in Gaul to the tomb of St. Martin , whom he wanted to thank for healing an eye disease. He moved first across the Alps to Raetien , then to Mainz, Cologne and Trier, and finally to Tours via Metz, Verdun and Paris. On the way he found hospitable reception from bishops and aristocrats, whom he thanked with occasional poems.

In Metz, on the occasion of the wedding of the Austrasian King Sigibert I with the Visigoth princess Brunichild, he wrote a wedding poem based on the example of the ancient epithalamies , which opened up access to the secular and spiritual Franconian upper class. He managed to find numerous sponsors, including Euphronius of Tours , who came from a Gallo-Roman senatorial family. Through his recommendation, Venantius reached Poitiers in 567. There he entered into a personal relationship with the Thuringian king's daughter Radegundis , the widow of King Chlothar I , and her foster daughter Agnes , who had retired to a monastery. Venantius became a priest and pastor of the monastery. On behalf of Radegundis, Venantius, who by now enjoyed an excellent reputation as a Latin poet, undertook several trips. He was also literary active for her. He was still in contact with numerous important contemporaries, in particular Bishop Gregory of Tours , who was also one of his patrons. Towards the end of his life, probably around the year 600, Venantius became Bishop of Poitiers.

In later centuries Venantius was venerated as a saint . His feast day is the day of his death, December 14th ; the year of death is unknown.


His works represent an important source for the outgoing Gallo-Roman culture at the turn of late antiquity to the early Middle Ages .

Venantius wrote an epic verse in four books on Saint Martin of Tours ( De virtutibus Martini Turonensis ), starting from the Vita sancti Martini of Sulpicius Severus and also using its epic arrangement by Paulinus of Périgueux . It is dedicated to Gregor von Tours , the production was suggested by Radegunde. He also wrote seven saints' lives in prose, including one about Hilary of Poitiers and one about Radegundis, whom he portrayed as saints after her death.

Of outstanding importance are his eleven books Carmina Miscellanea , which contain liturgical hymns , elegies , enkomia , epigrams , epitaphs and various occasional poems . The latter includes De navigio suo ( About his boat trip ) from the year 588, which is about a trip with the young Merovingian king Childebert II (570-595) down the Moselle to Koblenz and further down the Rhine to Andernach and Leutesdorf and a counterpart to the famous poem Mosella by Ausonius . The hymns include the passion songs Pange lingua and Vexilla regis , which are included in the Roman breviary and are still among the most famous hymns of the Latin liturgy . The Pange lingua also served Thomas Aquinas as the basis for his eponymous Eucharistic hymn Pange lingua . The figure poems (II, 4; II 5; V, 6), which are of central importance for the further development of the genre, form a special group .

Outside of the collection of poems, the Marian song Quem terra, pontus, aethera , a longer poem in praise of Mary ( In laudem sanctae Mariae ) and a lament about the fall of the Thuringian royal family from which Radegunde came from ( De excidio Thoringiae ) have been handed down to us. .

Mixed with the Carmina are various letters and two prose tracts: an exposition of the Our Father and an exposition of the Creed, which is linked to Rufinus of Aquileia .

Editions and translations


Web links

Commons : Venantius Fortunatus  - collection of images, videos and audio files




  1. ^ Venantius Fortunatus, Carmen X 9 (ed. Friedrich Leo , MGH Auctores Antiquissimi 4.1, Berlin 1881, pp. 242-244 ); German translation and extensive commentary by Paul Dräger : Venantius Fortunatus' two Moselle trips (carmina 6.8 and 10.9). In: Kurtrierisches Jahrbuch, Volume 39, Trier 1999, pp. 67–88, especially pp. 76–86.
predecessor Office successor
Plato of Poitiers Bishop of Poitiers
around 600