Fortunatus, Venantius, Honorius Clementianus

Fortunatus, Venantius, Honorius Clementianus bishop of Poitiers, and a Latin poet, was born about A.D. 530, near Treviso, in Italy. He studied grammar, rhetoric, literature, and law, and became so distinguished as an orator as to receive the surname of "Scholasticisimus." From Italy he came to France, where he acquired great reputation as a poet, and was received with favor at the court of Sigebert, king of Austrasia, in honor of whose marriage with Brunhilde (566) he wrote one of his poems. Having gone to Poitiers, he became preacher and confessor of the convent to which the former queen Radegunde and her sister had retired. Here he continued his philosophical and theological studies with great ardor, and became connected with Gregory of Tours (q.v.) and other dignitaries of the Church. He was appointed bishop of Poitiers in 599, but died soon after, probably about 609. He wrote eleven books of poetry on divers subjects; hymns, many of which have been used by the Church; epistles to different bishops, especially to Gregory of Tours; stories dedicated to his protectors, Radegunde and Agnes, which have given rise to an unfounded accusation of improper intimacy between them; the life of St. Martin; an explanation of the Lord's prayer, etc. He was the first to use rhyme with a certain degree of mastery, though with considerable license; he also mastered the trochaic tetrameter. His best known hymns are Vexilla Regis prodeunt, and Pange Lingua Gloriosi, which are incorporated into the Roman breviary. They may be found in Daniel, Thesaurus Hymnologicus, 1:160 sq., and are given, with Neale's translations, by Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 3:596 sq., and in Schaff, Christ in Song (New York, 1869). A Commentary on the Athanasian Creed is attributed to him ; Waterland vindicates his authorship of it (Works, Oxford, 1843, 3:134 sq.), but Lucchi and other critics deny it. Muratori conjectured (without adequate ground) that Fortunatus was the author of the Athanasian Creed itself. His writings were collected by Brower, Opera Omnia, published also in Bibl. Max. Patrum (1677). The best edition is that of Lucchi (Rome, 1786-7, 2 volumes, 4to; reproduced in Migne, Patrologia Latina, volumes 72 and 78). A full account of the writings of Fortunatus is given in Ceillier, Auteurs Sacres (Paris, 1862), 11, 402 sq. See also Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, 18:227-31.

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