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Images of St-Martin of Tours

swording off half his cloak to give to a poor man / beggar / pilgrim (never a woman!)




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Stained Glass in the Cathédral St-Gatien, Tours


Link to Maps of the Pilgrimage Roads of France

Link to some early medieval French Saints, Kings and Queens





Link to some early medieval French Saints, Kings and Queens


Saint Martin of Tours is also a Patron Saint of France.  He was a Hungarian who, unusually, survived life in the Roman army as a declared Christian, and went on to an apprenticeship in Poitiers under its bishop St-Hilaire, before reluctantly accepting the role of Bishop of Tours in 371.  At heart, like many of his medieval ilk, he was an aesthetic hermit monk, not a church administrator, with a lot in common with the late 1100s St-Francis.  Amongst other foundations he was responsible for building up Marmoutier (Wikipedia page on Marmoutier - there's only a few little ruinettes left today) into one of the greatest early medieval abbeys. 


On the way he got a reputation for having visions and doing miracles, and after his death soon became widely venerated as a saint (like St-Hilaire, one of the earliest non-martyr saints).  His tomb and the Basilica it was in (now no more) became a major stopping point on the via Turonensis  from Paris to Santiago de Compostela


Whilst he was still a Roman soldier, Martin established what was to become his brand image in numerous frescos and sculptures across Europe, when he stopped at the gates of Amiens to cut his cloak and give one half to a poor pilgrim.  Of course, giving the entire cloak away would have been more saintly, but this lacked the dramatic photo opportunity impact of a sword split!  Some of these images are shown below below. 


The feast day for Saint Martin is November 11, which is round about the same time of the feast of Dionysus, the pre-Christian Greek God of Wine.  Another seamless Christian morph to embrace the celebrations of getting stuck into the new wine and killing meat for winter as a Christian celebration.




St-Martin is ordained Bishop of Tours by St-Hilaire de Poitiers after a lot of popular pressure, though as one can see he was not very happy about it.




St-Martin's body is sailed back down the Loire to Tours after earlier being stolen



The panels above are from the double St-Martin window on the lower level of the apse of the Cathédrale St-Gatien, Tours, and date from about 1300.  The window starts with the "cloak splitting incident" (below).





Also in St-Gatien Cathedral, a 1200s (?) tomb revisits the St Martin brand image.




In this capital in the narthex of  Fleury Abbey Church - San Benoît sur Loire, the flamboyant cloak splitting by a mounted swordsman saint is a more pedestrian affair.




St-Martin in the cloister of the Abbaye St-Pierre de Moissac




St-Martin in the Abbey Church of St-Hilaire, Poitiers




Large bas-relief on the facade of the monastery church of St-Martin Pinario, near the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and stodgy toy horse roof ensemble on the main monastery building.





At the other end of Western Europe, San Martino parades Poitou-style (and with a more respectable horse) on the facade of Lucca's Duomo.



guidebook photo


Simone Martini frescos the San Martino moment in the lower church of the Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi.



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