Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Fortunatus, bp. of Poictiers
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Fortunatus, bp. of Poictiers
|Fortunatus (18), bp→|
Fortunatus (17), Venantius Honorius Clementianus, bp. of Poictiers, and the last representative of Latin poetry in Gaul, was born c. 530 at Ceneta, the modern Ceneda, near Tarvisium (Treviso) (Vit. Sanct. Martin. lib. iv. 668). He seems to have resided at an early age at Aquileia, where he came under the influence of one Paulus, who was instrumental in his conversion. Paulus Diaconus (Hist. Langobard. lib. ii. 23) relates that he studied grammar, rhetoric, and poetry at Ravenna. In gratitude for his recovery from blindness, he set out on a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Martin of Tours c. 565. Crossing the Alps and passing into Austrasia, he visited king Siegbert, for whom he composed an epithalamium on his marriage with Brunehault, couched in terms of extravagant flattery. Euphronius bp. of Tours and Fortunatus became close friends (Miscell. iii. 1-3). After completing his pilgrimage, he continued to travel in Gaul, because of the disturbed state of Italy, due to the incursions of the Lombards, but finding an additional inducement in the society of Rhadegund of Poictiers, for whom he conceived a Platonic attachment. She was the daughter of Bertharius, king of the Thuringians, and had been espoused against her will to Lothair I., king of Neustria, but had separated from him, and retired in 550 to Poictiers, where she founded the convent of St. Croix, more for literary than for religious seclusion, appointing her own domestic Agnes the first abbess. At what date Fortunatus visited Poictiers is uncertain, but he was induced to become chaplain and almoner to the convent. Rhadegund employed her poet-chaplain in correspondence with the prelates of Gaul, and despatched him from time to time on delicate missions. He thus became intimate with Gregory of Tours, Syagrius of Autun, Felix of Nantes, Germanus of Paris, Avitus of Clermont, and many others, to whom his poems are addressed. He also composed Lives of the saints, theological treatises, and hymns, including the famous Vexilla Regis, composed for a religious ceremony at Poictiers. The Pange Lingua, though generally ascribed to his pen, was more probably composed, as Sirmond has shown (in Notis ad Epist. Sidon. Apollin. lib. iii. Ep. 4.), by Claudianus Mamertus. Fortunatus was ordained priest, and, subsequently to the death of Rhadegund in 597, succeeded Plato in the bishopric of Poictiers; but died early in the 7th cent.
His works comprise: (1) Eleven Books of Miscellanies, chiefly in elegiac verse, interesting for the light they throw upon the manners of the time and the history of art (Miscell. i. 12; iii. 13), but as literature all but worthless.
(2) The Life of St. Martin of Tours in four books, consisting of 2,245 hexameter lines, hastily composed, and little more than a metrical version of Severus Sulpicius's incomparably better prose.
(3) An elegiac poem in three cantos, written in the character, and evidently under the inspiration, of Rhadegund. The first, de Excidio Thuringiae, is dedicated to her cousin Amalfred (or Hermanfred); the second is a panegyric of Justin II. and his empress Sophia, who had presented Rhadegund with a piece of the true cross.
(4) A collection of 150 elegiac verses addressed to Rhadegund and Agnes, and a short epigram ad Theuchildem.
(5) The Lives of eleven saints—Hilary of Poitiers, Germain of Paris, Aubin of Angers, Paternus of Avranches, Rhadegund of Poictiers, Amant of Rodez, Médard of Noyon, Remy of Rheims, Lubin of Chartres, Mauril of Angers, and Marcel of Paris—but the first book of the Life of Hilary and the Lives of the three last named saints ought probably to be attributed to another Fortunatus. To these must be added an account of the martyrdom at Paris of St. Denys, St. Rusticus, and St. Eleutherius.
His style is pedantic, his taste bad, his grammar and prosody seldom correct for many lines together, but two of his longer poems display a simplicity and pathos foreign to his usual style—viz. that on the marriage of Galesuintha, sister of Brunehaut, with Chilperic, and his Elegy upon the Fall of Thuringia.
The latest and best ed. of his works is by Leo and Krusch (Berlin, 1881-1885). A good earlier ed. by Luchi is reprinted in Migne's Patr. Lat. lxxxviii. Augustin Thierry, Récits mérovingiens, t. ii. Recit. vi.; and Ampère, Hist. lit. de la France, t. ii. c. 13.