Martin of Tours, St. (from Mars, Roman god of war; Latin variation, Sanctus Martinus; Italian, San Martino) (fourth century) In Christian legend, patron saint of armorers, beggars, calvary, coopers, domestic animals, girdlers, glovers, horses and horsemen, millers, innkeepers, tailors, wine merchants, and wool weavers. Invoked against drunkenness, storms, and ulcers. Feast, 11 November. Martin was born in the Roman province of Pannonia (modern-day Hungary) during the reign of Constantine. His parents were pagan. He was a tribune in the army and was sent into Gaul on a campaign. The Dialogues of Sulpicius Severus gives the well-known legend of St. Martin and the beggar. When he was 18, he was stationed at Amiens during a very severe winter. One bitterly cold day a beggar, naked and shaking, came near his station. Martin, like all the other soldiers, was in armor, but over his steel he had a large military cloak. As none of his companions took notice of the beggar, Mar
tin cut his cloak into two with his sword and gave half of it to the beggar. At night Christ appeared to Martin in a vision. He was dressed in the parted cloak and asked Martin if he recognized the garment, adding, “What is done to the poor in My name is done unto Me.” Martin then resolved to be baptized. After leaving the army Martin retired to a religious life and was made bishop of Tours in 371. Many other miracles are recorded of him: he raised a widow’s son to life, restored a slave of the proconsul from the possession of the devil, held converse with angels, and quenched fire by prayer. He is usually pictured on horseback, dividing his cloak with a beggar. There is a well-known painting of this incident by El Greco in which the saint is portrayed in 16th-century Spanish costume with a ruff. The cathedral in Mainz, Germany, is named after St. Martin, and a large statue on the roof depicts the scene with the beggar.
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow
Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante