St Martin was one of the most popular saints of the middle ages. He was born to pagan parents in the Roman Province of Pannoria (now western Hungary and parts of adjoining countries) in 316 AD. He was forced to follow his father's profession of soldier, even though he was drawn to Christianity, as a participating member of the Church, would not have been able to engage in combat. He was posted to Amiens in northern France, where one of the most famous episodes in Christian history is told of him: On a cold winter day he saw a beggar shivering outside the dates. he cut his own cloak in two and gave half to the beggar. That night he saw Christ in a dream, wearing the half cloak and saying "Martin, still a catechumen, has covered me with his garment." He immediately sought Baptism. An episode when he asked to leave the army, since as "a soldier of Christ" it was no longer lawful for him to fight for the empire, led to a brief imprisonment on a charge of cowardice, but he was released and employed by St Hilary of Poitiers as a lay minister, as soldiers could not be ordained as deacons.
He then journeyed through the Alps, escaping bandits and robbers to his homeland and encouraged his mother and others, though not his father to become Christians. After this he journeyed to Milan and hearing St Hilary had been exiled he stayed there. The Bishop, Auxentius however sent him to an island in the gulf of Genoa, where he stayed until St Hilary returned to Poitiers in 360, when he re-joined him.
He founded the first monastic community in Gaul and spent 10 years there. Finally, the people of Tours tricked him into coming to Tours and declared him Bishop. He founded the abbey of Marmoutier, which soon grew into a large community with the first seminary for the training of priests.
He helped spread Christianity into the rural areas sometimes using harsh methods.
He finally fell ill in a remote part of his diocese at Candes and he died on 8 November 397. His body was taken to Tours and buried there three days later, so the date of his burial has become his feast-day.
His Patronage includes: Soldiers, Wine Growers, Innkeepers and Tailors.
See this link for further information: La Basilique St Martin, Tours
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