Not Your Average Holly Roller
He was a Soldier. He was a hippie. He was a Saint. And wherever you go in France, you’ll find a village and/or a church named after him. Saint Martin of Tours was his offical title. But owing to his constant pligrimmages, He was really Saint Martin of everywhere.
While the date of Martin’s earthly arrival is vague, we can be certain that he was the son of a Roman Legionnaire. And, bien sur, like any Papa, Martin Senior wanted Junior to join the family business. And for a while, he did.
Marching To A Way Different Drummer
However, even during those years, it was clear that Martin was not cut from the same cloth as his fellow chariot jockeys. For example – as a member of the Imperial Guard, Martin was given a horse and a slave. Martin invited the slave to dine with all his Imperial homies. A few raised eyebrows. As you can well imagine.
But the incident that closed the door on Martin’s tour of duty was taking in a starving, partially frozen beggar during the Winter of 355.(An especially harsh one – as any French Winter historian will tell you.) While this naturally didn’t add any Gold stars to his soldierly report card, it was – so “legend has it” -the appearance of J.C. himself with his angel posse the next night at Martin’s bedside, that got him on a new “career path.”
Devout, diligent and caring as he obviously was, Martin felt he needed what everyone with more enthusiasm than experience needs – a mentor. Someone who’s “been there-done that”, and, hopefully is still doing it. (Successfully.) Saint Hilaire, the Eveque of Poitiers filled the bill. Giving Martin the inside scoop on all things Holy.
After filling himself with more of the Holy Spirit, Martin made attempted to visit his parents in Italy. No Way. Religious “discord” was the reason. He didn’t belong to the right club. So, he decamped to the island of Gallinara on what is now the Italian Riviera, for a little “r n’ r.”
Back To The Lambs
Returning to France, Martin established a Hermitage along the river Clain, near Poitiers. (skill testing question : “The home base of what Saint?”) Here he did his Holy/Hermitey thing. Attracing like-minded followers, fans and facebook “likes.” (just wanted to make sure you were paying attention)
Soon, the word of Martin’s wonderfulness spread, and eventually he was invited to become the next Eveque of Tours. Martin turned them down. Additionally, because he had long hair(like the son of “you know who”) and didn’t have a tailor at the Vatican – the long knives of the established holies were out for him.
But a visit from a Tourangeau ( that’s a person of the city of Tours, folks)and a subsequent visit to a sick woman, eventually turned the tide. And changed his mind. And yea, verily, so it was in 371, that Martin succeeded Lidoine, as Eveque of Tours.
Happily, for the poor, sick, downtrodden and oppressed, Martin was NOT a couch potatoe. If he did indeed have an ivory tower in Tours, he was rarely in it. Shuffling through the land on his donkey,spreading his message of inter-denominational harmony, peaceful co-existence, and performing a miracle or three.
He also managed to found a number of Churches where he thought they were needed.. As well as another Hertimage at Marmoutier, near Tours.
The Last Roundup
Fittingly, it was yet another attempt to do good that was to prove fatal to Martin. After establishing Churchs/Hermitages in many areas near Tours, he paid a visit to a tiny Loire village to resolve a dispute within his clerical staff. It was his last visit. Martin died in that church on the 8th of November, 397.
But of course, our story doesn’t end there. Alive – Martin was the Big Man On the Holy Campus. Dead – he was a Holy trophy. A symbol of the church’s charity and good works. The poster boy for religious harmony.
Invasion Of The (Holy) Body Snatchers
And so it was in the dead of night(and isn’t that the best part?) that while the Poitier posse was snoozin’ – the Holy brigade from Tours, snatched Martin, and boated him back to Tours. Where he rests today.
However, there is no rest for the tiny village where he died. It has, understandably become a major stop on the Holy pilgrimmage circuit. Appropriately, it’s named “Candes St. Martin.“
THROW ME A BONE HERE, PEOPLE!
What are ya thinkin’?