Saints of the Day – Venantius Fortunatus

Saint Venantius FortunatusArticle

Born near Treviso, Italy, c.535; died c.605. Venantius Honorius Clementianus Fortunatus spent his childhood in Aquileia, Italy, which had been ravaged the century before by Attila the Hun. He was educated in grammar, rhetoric, and law at Ravenna, Italy, and, when he completed his studies about 565, went on a two-year trek to Tours via Germany. In Tours he became a friend of Bishop Euphronius.

Venantius then moved on to the Loire Valley, where the air is sweet, the wine good, and finally ended up in Poitiers. For some 20 years (567-87) he lived at Poitiers, putting aside his pilgrim’s staff and bag at the Convent of the Holy Cross. He became both spiritual and temporal counselor to the community of nuns. There he was ordained and became adviser and secretary of King Clotaire I’s wife, Radegund, and her adopted daughter at their convent there. In about 600 Venantius was appointed bishop of Poitiers. Once in the episcopal seat he became a model of temperance

Venantius was a happy man with an easy sense of humor. Prior to his ordination frequently rhymed to pay for his dinner, following the customs of the troubadours. Venantius lived with verve. His writings exhibit a man of good cheer, pure charity, gratitude, and a humble heart. He sang of the Cross which is “the instrument of our health,” but the gallows of torture erected on Golgotha on Good Friday are fully radiant with the light of Easter. “The happy tree on the arms of which hung the ransom of the world” became the tree of liberty to the children of God, the emblem of health. The holy man who loved food and joy and whose virtues have been celebrated in a continuous cultus, died “in the midst of universal regret” at Poitiers.

A fluent versifier, he wrote voluminously. Among his works were metrical lives of Saints Martin of Tours, Hilary of Poitiers, Germanus of Paris, Albinus of Angers, Paternus of Avranches, Marcellus of Paris, Radegund, and other religious figures.

His life of Saint Martin includes the stories of Sulpicius Severus and Paulinus of Perigeux in 2,243 hexameters. Prolific! This was actually a paen to the saint who restored his failing sight. It is said that he made a pilgrimage to Saint Martin’s tomb, prayed for the saint’s intercession, and his blindness was completely cured.

Additionally, he wrote poems about a trip on the Mosel, on church construction, and on the marriage of King Sigebert and Brunehilde in 566; elegies on the deaths of Brunehilde’s sister, Queen Galeswintha, and Radegund’s cousin, Amalafried.

He is also the composer of several outstanding hymns, notably Pange Lingua gloriosi, Vexilla Regis prodeunt, Agnoscat omne saeculum, and, possibly, Ave Maris Stella and Quem terra, pontus, aethera.

His poems revealed much valuable information about his times, Merovingian figures and customs, family life, descriptions of buildings, works of art, and the status of women (Delaney, Encyclopedia).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 21 August 2020. Web. 29 November 2020. <>