VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIANUS FORTUNATUS (530-609), bishop of Poitiers, and the chief Latin poet of his time, was born near Ceneda in Treviso in 530. He studied at Milan and Ravenna, with the special object of excelling as a rhetorician and poet, and in 565 he journeyed to France, where he was received with much favour at the court of Sigbert, king of Austrasia, whose marriage with Brunhild he celebrated in an epithalarniurn. After remaining a year or two at the court of Sigbert he travelled in various parts of France, visiting persons of distinction, and composing short pieces of poetry on any subject that occurred to him. At Poitiers he visited Queen Radegunda, who lived there in retirement, and she induced him to prolong his stay in the city indefinitely. Here he also enjoyed the friendship of the famous Gregory of Tours and other eminent ecclesiastics. He was elected bishop of Poitiers in 599, and died about 609. The later poems of Fortunatus were collected in a books, and consist of hymns (including the Vexilla regis prodeunt, Englished by J. M. Neale as "The royal banners forward go"), epitaphs, poetical epistles, and verses in honour of his patroness Radegunda and her sister Agnes, the abbess of a nunnery at Poitiers. He also wrote a large poem in 4 books in honour of St Martin, and several lives of the saints in prose. His prose is stiff and mechanical, but most of his poetry has an easy rhythmical flow.
An edition of the works of Fortunatus was published by C. Brower at Fulda in 1603 (2nd ed., Mainz, 1617). The edition of M. A. Luschi (Rome, 1785) was afterwards reprinted in Migne's Patrologiae cursus completus, vol. lxxxviii. See the edition by Leo and Krusch (Berlin, 1881-1885). There are French lives by Nisard (1880) and Leroux (1885).
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