Who was Saint Martin of Tours?
El Greco, 1597-1599
Art Institute of Chicago
Martin was born in 335 AD. At an early age he converted to Christianity. His father, a tribune in the Roman army, insisted that he follow a soldier’s career. Martin joined the imperial cavalry and was stationed in France. In Amiens, one cold winter day, he happened to pass a beggar clad in only a few rags and suffering from the bitter weather. Seeing the poor man’s need, Martin took off his outer cloak and, cutting it in two with his sword, gave half of it to the beggar. That night, Christ appeared to him in a vision, saying, “What thou hast done for that poor man, thou hast done for me.” This experience impelled Martin to devote himself to religion. (The story of St. Martin and the beggar is particularly remembered in our parish through our annual winter coat drive.) After obtaining his discharge from military service, he founded the monastery of Ligugé, the first in France. His monastery had a great influence on the development of Celtic monasticism in Britain. The oldest church in Canterbury is dedicated to St. Martin. In 372 he became Bishop of Tours and served faithfully there for some thirty years until his death.
For further information, see the Wikipedia article on Martin of Tours.