Martin of Tours

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St. Martin in Veules-les-Roses

Martin of Tours , Latin Martinus (* around 316 / 317 in Savaria , the Roman province of Pannonia prima , today Szombathely , Hungary, † 8 November 397 in Candes at Tours in France), was the founder of Western monasticism and the third bishop of Tours . He is one of the most famous saints of the Catholic Church and the first to whom she has awarded this dignity not as a martyr but as a confessor . He is also venerated as a saint in the Orthodox , Anglican and Evangelical Churches.


Martin von Tours' fountain in his native Szombathely
The funeral of St. Martin
( Basilica of San Francesco , Assisi, Simone Martini , 1322/26)

Martin, probably born as Martinus, grew up as the son of a Roman military tribune in Pannonia in what is now Hungary. He spent his youth in Pavia , his father's homeland in northern Italy, where he first came into contact with Christianity . At the age of ten he was accepted into the group of catechumens , the baptismal applicants. Reluctantly, Martinus bowed to his father's command and embarked on a military career. As the son of a Roman officer, he was legally obliged to serve in the military according to Diocletian's regulations . At the age of 15 he was drafted into the bodyguard of Emperor Constantine II in Milan , which at the time was the residence of the western half of the Roman Empire. His faith deepened during the battles between the Romans and Alemanni in Gaul , now France, and later across the Rhine, in which Martinus served under Julian . Before a battle against advancing Teutons near the camp of the Civitas Vangionum , today's Worms , Martinus, as an officer of the Roman army of occupation, refused to participate, pointing out that from now on he was no longer miles Caesaris , a soldier of the Roman emperor, but miles Christi , soldier of Christ, and asked to be discharged from service. He was denied this for a long time, and so he was only dismissed from military service by Julian in 356 at the age of 40 after completing his 25-year service.

In 351 - that is, at the age of 34 or 35 - Martinus was baptized by Bishop Hilary of Poitiers . After studying with him for some time after his military service, he retired as a hermit to the island of Gallinara near Genoa. Soon, however, many followers followed him, so that he gave up this life again. He traveled to his mother in Pannonia, whom he converted to the Christian faith. Then he went back to Gaul. There he built the first monastery of the West in Ligugé in 361 , the Abbey de Ligugé , which was later consecrated to him. In 375 he built the Marmoutier monastery near Tours . He soon met Liborius , the Bishop of Le Mans . He had a lifelong friendship with him, and in June 397 he gave the dying Liborius the sacrament of the anointing of the sick .

Martin was the link between Rome and the empire of the Franks . As an ascetic monk, he embodied the late ancient ideal of a bishop or priest . As a helper in need and miracle worker, Martin quickly became known throughout Touraine . On July 4, 372 he was ordained Bishop of Tours. Instead of living in the city, he preferred to live in the wooden huts in front of the city wall.

He consolidated the Christianization of the rural population by destroying non-Christian religious sites and building churches and monasteries, writes his biographer Sulpicius Severus in the Vita Sancti Martini : “Before Martin there were very few, actually none, who lived in this area accepted the Christian faith. Through his virtues and his example of faith, faith has grown to such an extent that there is no place today that is not full of churches and monasteries. Because wherever he destroyed pagan places of worship, he built places of worship and monasteries. "

When Martin was staying in Trier , the opponents of the heretical bishop Priscillian of Ávila sued him in Trier with Emperor Magnus Maximus . At Martin's instigation, Maximus ended the trial, but had it resumed after Martin's departure from Trier and Priscillian was sentenced to death in 385. When Martin heard of the execution, he protested sharply against this practice to Emperor Maximus, as did Ambrose of Milan and Siricius of Rome .

When Martin came to Trier in 386 to intercede with Maximus for two supporters of the emperor Gratian , who was killed in 383 , he refused the eucharistic fellowship of the bishops around Ithacius , who had condemned Priscillian or had approved . On threats from the emperor to begin the persecution of the Priscillian groups as well as orthodox ascetic groups associated with Martin, Martin allowed himself to be persuaded to resume the eucharistic fellowship with the bishops involved at least during the episcopal ordination of Trier Bishop Felix .

On November 8, 397, Martin died at the age of 81 on a visit to Candes , a town in his diocese . He was buried on November 11th in Tours with great public sympathy.

Hagiographic lore

Saint Martin and the Beggar
( El Greco , 1597/99, National Gallery of Art , Washington DC)

From 334 Martin was stationed in Amiens as a soldier in the cavalry of the Imperial Guard . The guards wore the chlamys over their armor , a white robe made of two parts, which was lined with sheepskin in the upper area . In almost all artistic representations, however, he is depicted with a red officer's coat (Latin: paludamentum ). One winter day, Martin met a poor, naked man at the city gate of Amiens. Apart from his weapons and his military coat, Martin carried nothing with him. In a compassionate act, he shared his cloak with the sword and gave half to the poor. The following night Christ appeared to him in a dream, clad in half the cloak that Martin had given the beggar. In the sense of Mt 25,35-40  EU - "I was naked and you clothed me ... What you did to one of these least of these brothers of mine, you did to me." - Martin proves himself here as a disciple of Jesus.

Soon reports of Martin's miracles began to emerge. His biographer, Sulpicius Severus , who knew him personally, ascribed to him, for example, resurrections from the dead in the Vita Sancti Martini:

At that time he was joined by a catechumene who wished to attend the school of perfection with the holy man. However, he fell ill after a few days and was tormented by a severe fever. Martinus wasn't there just now. He stayed away for three days. When he returned he found him already dead. The man had passed away without baptism, death had occurred so suddenly. The body was laid out; the brothers stood around them in sorrowful love. Then Martinus came, weeping and sighing. He felt the blowing of the Holy Spirit in his heart. He ordered the others to leave the death cell and locked the door. Then he lay down over the dead limbs and prayed fervently for a while. Now he felt the Spirit of the Lord making the miraculous power flow towards him; he straightened up a little, looked the dead man straight in the face and waited with firm confidence for the effect of his prayer and the demonstration of divine mercy. Hardly about two hours had passed before he saw how little by little all the limbs of the dead man trembled, and his eyes twitched open again to the light. The happy man now turned to God, thanked him in a loud voice and filled the cell with his calls of joy. Then the outside brothers hurried in at once. What a miracle! They saw the one alive whom they had left as a corpse. So returned to life, it was immediately baptized. He lived for several years afterwards; he was the first with us who had experienced the miraculous power of Martinus firsthand and at the same time was able to give testimony to it himself. "

Another tradition says that Martin was to be appointed bishop by the inhabitants of the city of Tours in 371. Martin, who felt himself unworthy of the office, had hidden in a goose stable. The geese, chattering excitedly, betrayed his presence, and he had to accept the office of bishop. The custom of preparing a St. Martin's goose on the feast of the saint is also derived from this . The legend of the Martinsmesse, which is depicted in the clear altar of Cologne Cathedral, for example, says that after Martin, after he gave his skirt to a poor man and the sleeve that was newly bought for him on the market, was splendidly dressed by angels during the mass and a ray of light came down on him from heaven.


The Bassenheimer Reiter , a representation of Martin by the Naumburg master

Sulpicius Severus , a companion of Martin, wrote the authoritative vita about the saint around 395 , which was first translated into German in 1466. This biography served in the early Middle Ages in the Franconian Imperial Church and also in the Western Church as a template for saints' lives. This is due to the fact that Martin died a natural death, so he was not a martyr but a confessor , and his biography gave an example of an exemplary life.

An important promoter of the early medieval veneration of St. Martin was Gregory of Tours , successor to the bishopric of Tours. He wrote four books about the miracles of St. Martin and also describes the biography of the saint in his history of the Franconian Empire. The Frankish king Clovis elevated Martin to the national saint and patron of the Frankish - Merovingian kings.

Martin's coat (lat. Cappa ) has been part of the crown treasure of the Franconian kings since the Merovingian era and traveled with their court from residence to residence. It was often kept in smaller rooms used as church rooms, which were later also referred to as " chapels ". Since they could read and write, the clergy who accompanied the cappa, the chaplains , also performed the office of court and document scribes in addition to their pastoral duties. This explains the name Hofkapelle for the royal chancellery of the Franconian Empire.

After the grave of the saint was devastated in the course of the French Revolution , the veneration of St. Martin experienced a new bloom in France in the 19th century, which was mainly characterized by anti-republican currents in Catholicism of that time. Joseph Hippolyte Guibert , Bishop of Tours (1857–1871), promoted the veneration of the saint and commissioned the architect Victor Laloux to build a new basilica on this site in 1860, after the saint's tomb had been rediscovered during construction.

Martin is the patron saint of France and Slovakia . He is venerated as the state patron of Burgenland and as patron of the city of Mainz , Eichsfeld and as patron of the Mainz Cathedral . It also adorns the coats of arms of many places. He is also the namesake and patron saint of the Order of St. Martin, an international aid organization. The priestly community of Saint Martin , which was founded in Genoa in 1976 as an association of Catholic priests, also invokes him ; this association is now mainly active in French parishes.

Due to his vita, St. Martin is the patron saint of travelers and the poor and beggars as well as riders , and in a broader sense also of refugees , prisoners , abstainers and soldiers.

Around 480, Perpetuus , Martin's third successor as Bishop of Tours, laid the feast day of St. Martin on the day of his funeral, November 11th. The following day, Advent began, which, like Lent, lasted 40 days. This marked a memorable beginning for the Advent period of penance and fasting, which from then on was also called Martinsquadragese .

name day

The day of the saint falls on November 11th ( St. Martin's Day ), the day of the burial of St. Martin. Numerous farmer rules for this calendar day, which is also considered a lucky day, which follows the beginning of winter on November 10 according to the Julian calendar , make statements about the weather situation of the coming winter:

  • "If a martini has a white beard, winter will be long and hard."
  • "When there is fog at Martini, the winter is usually mild."

regional customs

The St. Martin is celebrated in many areas with parades and other customs. Since Martin's body was transferred to Tours in a light procession by boat, the kindergartens in particular celebrate a “lantern festival” with running lanterns . This custom is also known in German-speaking Switzerland as the “ Räbeliechtli parade ”. In many regions of Germany, children follow the motto of martin singing . To the east of Austria and neighboring parts of Hungary and Slovakia as well as in southern Sweden is on 11 November traditionally Martinsgans consumed as solid food. In Middle Franconia (Nuremberg and the surrounding area) children put boots in front of the door the evening before, which are filled with sweets in the morning. In some places the “ Belzermäddl ” (usually at the request of the parents) also comes to the houses to criticize and praise the behavior of the children and to bring the presents with them.

Since St. Martin's Day was associated with church festivals and parades, it was a day of economic importance in many areas of the Rhineland as a church fair day: At the beginning of November, the farming year was finally over, rents and interest were paid and contracts were concluded, renewed and canceled. Numerous old documents often define St. Martin's Day as the target and payday, the “ business year ” lasted from St. Martin to St. Martin, so to speak.

In Protestant areas, the Martins custom is also associated with the memory of Martin Luther , who was baptized on November 11th, for example at the Martins celebration in Erfurt .


Martin is portrayed either as a Roman soldier on horseback while splitting his shoulder cloak, or he is portrayed as a bishop with the iconographic attributes of a wheel or geese .


Flims local coat of arms

In the crest Martin of Tours is a common figure . He is one of the saints who in heraldry stands for religion in heraldic art.

He is portrayed as a rider, dividing a cloak with a sword, the supplicant kneeling in front of him. A halo around the head increases the value of the rider, but was left out in areas of the Reformation .

A selection of coats of arms in which he is depicted can be found in the list of coats of arms with Martin von Tours .

Council of Europe Cultural Route

Since 2005, a Council of Europe cultural trail has been dedicated to the memory of Martin von Tours .


St. Martin is depicted on the 100 Swiss franc banknote from 1956 (back).

Place names and patronages

See also


Web links

Commons : Martin von Tours  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Bishop Martin. Catholic parish of St. Martin, accessed on September 4, 2017 .
  2. ^ Sulpicius Severus, Vita Sancti Martini , 13, 9; s. a. Manfred Clauss, A New God for the Old World. The History of Early Christianity , 2015, p. 395.
  3. ^ Joachim Schäfer: Martin of Tours. In: Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints . August 30, 2017. Retrieved September 4, 2017 .
  4. ^ Manfred Becker-Huberti : coat division. Archived from the original on July 21, 2015 ; accessed on September 4, 2017 .
  6. ^ Joachim Schäfer: Martin of Tours. In: Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints. Retrieved on June 23, 2020 (German).
  7. ^ Sulpicius Severus : Vita Sancti Martini / The life of Saint Martin. Translated by Gerlinde Huber-Rebenich. Reclam, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-15-018780-7 .
    Werner Williams-Krapp: Martin of Tours. German prose legends. In: Author's Lexicon . 2nd Edition. Volume 6, Col. 157 f.
  8. M. Wehrmann: The namesake: St. Martin v. Tours. Order of St. Martin, February 12, 2013, archived from the original on February 12, 2013 ; Retrieved on September 4, 2017 (The text is based in part on this Wikipedia article. The author also works on Wikipedia.).
  9. Wolfgang Schallenhofer: Patron Saint Patron Saint Nothelfer - Lexicon ., December 10, 2010, accessed on September 4, 2017.
  10. ^ Hermann Kirchhoff : Christian Customs. Festivals and customs in the annual cycle . Kösel, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-466-36416-7 , p. 18.
  11. ^ Helmut Hiller: Lexicon of Superstition. Süddeutscher Verlag, Munich 1986, ISBN 978-3-7991-6332-3 , p. 80.
  12. Martin's day as a payday. In: Deutscher Landwirtschaftsverlag GmbH, November 7, 2006, archived from the original on December 20, 2014 ; accessed on September 4, 2017 .
  13. Customs of St. Martin. Christmas Times, 2014, archived from the original on April 2, 2015 ; accessed on September 4, 2017 .
  14. ^ Johann Carl von Fichard : Frankfurt Archive for Old German Literature and History . Gebhard and Körber, Frankfurt, 1811, p. 369 (example of a debt contract from 1380, payable to St. Martin; view via Google Books).
  15. The Saint Martin of Tours Route . European Institute of Cultural Routes / Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe , February 8, 2016, accessed on September 4, 2017.
predecessor Office successor
Litorius Bishop of Tours