Saint Martin of Tours

Saint Martin, the patron of the beggars and outlaws, the most popular Saint in Europe, guardian of all suppressed ones and fright of all violent ones, got admiration already in the 5th century. In the Middle Ages his grave in the Martin basilica of Tours was a popular pilgrimage goal and was considered as Frankish national shrine. His coat was admired by the Merovinges as treasure of the empire and kept in a special small room, dedicated to the holy service. This room was called "Capella" (Cappa = coat). This is why to the very day we call a small church chapel.
The most famous painting of Martin is perhaps the portrayal in the Martin Basilica of Lucca with the moving scene, in which Martin shares his cloak with the beggar.
The history of Saint Martin begins around 316 A.D. in Steinamanger in Hungary. Here the Frankish Saint was born as a son of one Roman officer, who had set himself up as a veteran. His Parents were both pagans, but young Martin let himself baptize with 18 years in Amiens. The cause for this decision is said to be the experience, reported of the cloak sharing as reported in the legend. After Martin had followed in his father's footsteps, he served in a Roman rider regiment in Gaul. There he visited Saint Hilarius of Poitiers, in order to be instructed from him in theology. He received the minor orders after this education. The young Christian is said to be very worried about his parents were still pagans. The story tells that he returned to his homeland and converted his mother. The Arians however pursued and maltreated him and drove him out of Pannonia. Therefore he fled from to the small isle Gallinaria in the gulf of Genova and lived there five years as a recluse after the model of the Egyptian hermits. Then he withdrew to Gaul.
Here it founded around 360 A.D. a cell near Poitiers, which became the basis of the first coenobitic (i.e. living in permanent monastic community) in close monk community of France. His pious penitent life and his miracles impressed the people so much that they elected him to the successor of the bishop of Tours. In his modesty however, as the legend knows, he got revealed by the cackling of the geese. By gentle force he was led to Tours, where he bent to the people's desire and carried out his duties, without concern about praise or blame, staying faithfully to his simple monk life. He lived in the monastery Marmoutier that had been founded by him at the Loire and was made by him to a school of Christian mission for the whole Occident. He became the shining example for the whole occidental monkhood, since he connected as the first ascetic life with the apostolate. With his distinct sense for justice and his love for the people he became the most successful apostle of Gaul. He carried the knowledge of "new way" into the last corner of his district. His miraculous powers were praised everywhere, he achieved with God's assistance even several revivals of dead persons. The holy bishop of Tours died on a visitation journey in Candes around the year 400.
He is shown almost always as Roman warrior on a white horse (to the distinction of St. George, who rides a brown horse) with red cloak, which he shares with the beggar. Other portrayals show him in the bishop robe with the goose at his side. Beside the beggars he is also the patron of the tailors, soldiers, arms manufactures and other craftsmen.
From the variety of the legends having grown around around him, here the ones of the cloak sharing and the goose shall told:
As Martin the baptism had not received yet it happened in a cold winter evening that the young soldier with his comrades rode along the road to Amiens. There out of the town-gate stepped a poor looking shape wrapped in rags and reached out with his trembling emaciated hands. Since the young soldier did not carry money with himself, the nakedness of the beggar however found his compassion; he swiftly took his sword and under the laughter of his comrades cut half of his cloak for the poor man. At night in the dream Christ appeared to him dressed in the piece of his cloak and spoke to the heavenly hosts of angels that accompanying him: "Martinus, who is not baptized yet, dressed me". This dream impressed the young man so much that he let baptize himself immediately.
Later, as Martin had been elected to the bishop of Tours, he did not want to accept this honor and hid himself in a goose barn. When the people looked for him however, it was revealed by the cackling of the geese that Martin had hidden himself there. They led him to Tours, where he was consecrated. That is why the Saint often is portrayed with a goose and also explains the custom to eat a Martin goose goes back to this legend.
Further legends can be found on There are also stories, lanterns, songs and recipes.

back to the church St. Martin Batzenhofen