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Bishop and community in the poetry of Venantius Fortunatus
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 11:21 authored by Brian Brennan
This study analyses the portrayal of the bishop and community in the poetry of Venantius Fortunatus and evaluates the value of the poems as historical source material. The first chapter presents a reconstruction of Venantius' situation in Gaul and of the milieu in which he worked. It also examines broadly his literary production in terms of genre and poetic convention as part of a discussion of the poems as historical source material. Particular stress is given to the constraints that convention placed upon the poet. The relationship of poet to patrons is examined and Gregory of Tours established as Venantius' principal patron. Thirty-nine bishops, who figure in Venantius' poems, are discussed in Chapter Two, both in terms of individual difference, and in the way in which they are made to conform to an idealised model of episcopal competence and behaviour. Chapters Three and Four focus attention on the bishop in the community. We examine first his role as spiritual leader and then as civic leader. The bishop's role in the civitas community is examined and his relationship to representatives of the secular power assessed. Chapter Five, a culminating chapter, places the figure of Venantius' king beside that of Venantius' bishop and drawing together arguments earlier developed relates Venantius' portrayal of the bishop and his community to the debate about the relative strengths of King and Bishop in sixth century Gaul. It is argued here that the bishop did not enjoy an unchallenged supremacy in the cities of sixth century Gaul or benefit from a supposed translation imperii. This study stresses Venantius' role as panegyrist of the bishops of Gaul, who, faced with often delicate political situations, sought from Venantius public and poetic affirmations of their piety and of what they saw as their ideal status within the community. Venantius operated most particularly as the satellite of his great patron Gregory of Tours, offering his poetry as a welcome bolster to Gregory's auctoritas. Venantius' poetry formed part of that prelate's diplomatic offensives.