Sunday, November 11, 2007


It is the feast of St. Martin of Tours, the great thaumaturge who converted large parts of France. The cloak of St Martin was one of the most precious relics of France, borne before her armies, hence the word chape gave rise to our English words "chaplain" and "chapel." St. Martin spoke out against capital punishment for heretics. The shrine of St. Martin at Tours was one of the holiest of French pilgrimage sites; he is considered one of the patrons of the Holy Face devotion which also originated there. According to New Advent:
The Church of France has always considered Martin one of her greatest saints, and hagiographers have recorded a great number of miracles due to his intercession while he was living and after his death. His cult was very popular throughout the Middle Ages, a multitude of churches and chapels were dedicated to him, and a great number of places have been called by his name. His body, taken to Tours, was enclosed in a stone sarcophagus, above which his successors, St. Britius and St. Perpetuus, built first a simple chapel, and later a basilica (470). St. Euphronius, Bishop of Autun and a friend of St. Perpetuus, sent a sculptured tablet of marble to cover the tomb. A larger basilica was constructed in 1014 which was burned down in 1230 to be rebuilt soon on a still larger scale This sanctuary was the centre of great national pilgrimages until 1562, the fatal year when the Protestants sacked it from top to bottom, destroying the sepulchre and the relics of the great wonder-worker, the object of their hatred. The ill-fated collegiate church was restored by its canons, but a new and more terrible misfortune awaited it. The revolutionary hammer of 1793 was to subject it to a last devastation. It was entirely demolished with the exception of the two towers which are still standing and, so that its reconstruction might be impossible, the atheistic municipality caused two streets to be opened up on its site. In December, 1860, skilfully executed excavations located the site of St. Martin's tomb, of which some fragments were discovered. These precious remains are at present sheltered in a basilica built by Mgr Meignan, Archbishop of Tours which is unfortunately of very small dimensions and recalls only faintly the ancient and magnificent cloister of St. Martin. On 11 November each year the feast of St. Martin is solemnly celebrated in this church in the presence of a large number of the faithful of Tours and other cities and villages of the diocese.

Our Holy Father's words about St. Martin at today's Angelus.

(Artwork from The Western Confucian) Share


Alexandra said...

Great post! Interesting and I learned a new word, "thaumaturge". I had to look that one up!

The link throughs were interesting as well. I clicked through the link through for "Protestants" which lead me to read about Merit. I know the history generally, but this got done to brass tacks. The fall-out over Merit really is quite ridiculous when understood in contemporary times. I think more than ever our society needs that individual accountability, that fear of Hell based on one's lack of actions, and/or poor choices.

Anonymous said...

Hmmph! Didn't hear about all that in my public school history classes. What an utterly despicable thing to do to a church. All we heard was how WONDERFUL the French Revolution was. Lies, lies, lies.

My children will read Trianon and Madame Royale among other good books to hear the truth.

Thank you, Elena for your wonderful posts. They are fascinating and so very needed to counter the drivel we were fed.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Alexandra. I find the old Catholic Encyclopedia on New Advent to be loaded with fascinating information.

Yes, Margaret, it is really a shame the way the Revolutionaries destroyed St Martin's shrine; it was supposed to have been magnificent. They spared so many of the other great churches and cathedrals, but poor St Martin, they really had it out for him. Nothing was left.

Marguerite said...

Dear Elena,
There is an excellent biography of Saint-Martin from Regine Pernoud (the great french medievalist)that has been reedited in english by Ignatius Press. A great read to complete your excellent post!

elena maria vidal said...

Merci, Marguerite!