Martin of Tours

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Our father among the saints Martin of Tours (Latin: Martinus), was a bishop of Tours in the fourth century. He showed interest in Christianity at an early age. After service in the Roman army, he was baptized and became a disciple of Hilary of Poitiers who was prominent in the trinitarian disputes with the Arians. He was acclaimed bishop of Tours in 371. He founded the monastery Marmoutier where he led a austere life with cave-dwelling cenobites. Veneration of Martin was very popular in western Europe during the middle ages. After his death he was buried in Tours where, in time, a large basilica was built as the shrine of St. Martin of Tours. His hagiographer Sulpitius Severus, a contemporary, recorded the events in his life.


Martin was born in 316 or 317 in Sabaria, Pannonia, in present day Hungary, into a military family. His father was a tribune in the Imperial Horse Guard and was stationed in Ticinum, Cisapline Gaul, which is modern day Pavia, Italy. He was named after the Roman god Mars. Against his parents’ wishes, young Martin began attending church at the age of ten, becoming a catechumen. At the age of fifteen, and being the son of a Roman officer, he was required to join the cavalry. In the course of his duties in 334 he was stationed at Samarobriva, Gaul, modern day Amiens, France.

It was while in Amiens that he experienced a vision that became a memorialized event in his life. He had met at the gates of the city of Amiens a scantily dressed beggar for whom Martin cut in half his military cloak to share it with the beggar. That night he dreamed of Jesus wearing the half cloak that Martin had given away and heard Jesus telling the angels “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who was not baptized. He has clad me.