Venantius’ Vexilla

Today marks the traditional feast of Venantius Fortunatus (530 – 609) one of the greatest of Christian Latin poets and hymnographers, who flourished at the Merovingian court in Gaul (now France). He was given a classical, liberal arts education in Italy, which had recently been liberated from the barbarian invasions, and likely studied at Ravenna, the ‘second’ capital, as Rome had been ravaged. He ended up, after some wandering, in Paris, where he was much in demand, and what works survive – all of the highest quality – attest to his industriousness. He died in 609, not long after Pope Gregory the Great had brought some order back to Rome, and is popularly regarded as a saint, even if never formally canonized.

Readers may recognize some of his hymns: ‘The God of Earth and Sea and Sky‘, the Pange Lingua Gloriosi (which inspired Saint Thomas Aquinas’ later hymn of similar title), and his Vexilla Regis Prodeunt, which Anton Bruckner set as a motet. Here is that piece, which fits this season of Advent, as we await the return of the King, and in the meantime, enjoy some of Venantius’ genius, resounding through the ages.