MARTIN, ST (c. 316-400), bishop of Tours, was born of heathen parents at Sabaria (Stein am Agger) in Pannonia, about the year 316. When ten years old he became a catechumen, and at fifteen he reluctantly entered the army. While stationed at Amiens he divided his cloak with a beggar, and on the following night had the vision of Christ making known to his angels this act of charity to Himself on the part of " Martinus, still a catechumen." Soon afterwards he received baptism, and two years later, having left the army, he joined Hilary of Poitiers, who wished to make him a deacon, but at his own request ordained him to the humbler office of an exorcist. On a visit home he converted his mother, but his zeal against the Arians roused persecution against him and for some time he lived an ascetic life on the desert island of Gallinaria near Genoa. Between 360 and 370 he was again with Hilary at Poitiers, and founded in the neighbourhood the monasterium locociagense (Licuge). In 371-372 the people of Tours chose him for their bishop. He did much to extirpate idolatry from his diocese and from France, and to extend the monastic system. To obtain privacy for the maintenance of his personal religion, he established the monastery of Marmoutier-les-Tours (Martini monasterium) on the banks of the Loire. At Treves, in 385, he entreated that the lives of the Priscillianist heretics should be spared, and he ever afterwards refused to hold ecclesiastical fellowship with those bishops who had sanctioned their execution. He died at Candes in the year 400, and is commemorated by the Roman Church on the nth of November (duplex). He left no writings, the so-called Confessio being spurious. He is the patron saint of France and of the cities of Mainz and Wiirzburg. The Life by his disciple Sulpicius Severus is practically the only source for his biography, but it is full of legendary matter and chronological errors. Gregory of Tours gives a list of 206 miracles wrought by him after his death; Sidonius Apollinaris composed a metrical biography of him. The Feast of St Martin (Martinmas) took the place of an old pagan festival, and inherited some of its usages (such as the Martinsmannchen, Martinsfeuer, Martinshorn and the like, in various parts of Germany); by this circumstance is probably to be explained the fact that Martin is regarded as the patron of drinking and jovial meetings, as well as of reformed drunkards.
See A. Dupuy, Geschichte des heiligen Martins (Schaffhausen, 1855) ; J. G. Cazenove in Diet. chr. biog. iii. 838.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)