The Making of Saint Martin

The Making of Saint Martin

By Piotr Morawski, Gorjan Dimitrov, Henriette L E Rasmussen, Amalie Frese and Julie Jacobsen

Thesis, Roskilde University, 2005

Introduction: The main character of interest in our project is Saint Martin of Tours: a Roman soldier, monk and finally bishop of Tours. Martin, as we learn from the sources, was born in Upper Pannonia, in modern Hungary, in about 316, and died on the 8th of November in 397 in Candes, France. While still alive, Martin became known as a holy man because of his great devotion to God and acts of charity to people. Shortly after his death Martin’s body was moved to Tours and became an object of veneration. Nevertheless, the fame of his deeds, as well as his cult, spread widely beyond Tours and France making Martin a character in numerous narratives and a figure eagerly depicted in church art in the whole of Europe. Nowadays we can find numerous churches dedicated to Saint Martin, and the day of his festival is still solemnly celebrated in Tours, as well as in many others towns of Europe. Being a very significant figure in French history, Martin became one out of three main saintpatrons of France. The figure of Saint Martin is a particular instance of the phenomenon of Christian holy men, which spread through the whole of Europe from the Late Antiquity, permeating religious life in the Middle Ages.

A saint is one who joins Heaven and Earth, who brings people closer to God and makes God’s presence in the world more visible. The Saint is a mediator between material and supernatural reality, and he is a protector of humans against evil powers and earthly enemies. The saint is a person who, after his earthly life devoted to God, finally joins the eternal community of God; he becomes a friend of God but is still an invisible intimate friend of humans. His bodily remains, the relics, are buried in his tomb, which is a meeting place for man and his Creator, in the presence and mediation of saint. In the time full of activity during the Middle Ages graves of saints were refuges, where everyone could feel secure and find a shelter in the protection of his invisible friend who is close to God. A saint is also one who reveals God’s magnificence by performing amazing miracles in His name; a saint demonstrates God’s mercy by supporting people who need it and ask for it.

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