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Martin of Tours

Saint Martin of Tours, (died November 11, 397) a native of Pannonia, served in the Roman army and was stationed in Gaul, then became a monk in the region of Poitiers.

Martin worked for the conversion to Christianity of the populace, making many preaching trips through western and central France. In the course of this work he became extremely popular, and in 371 became bishop of Tours; he refused to live in the city and instead founded a monastery for his residence a short distance outside the walls. The monastery, known in Latin as the 'Larger Monastery' or Maius monasterium became known as Marmoutier in later French.

Statue of Saint Martin cutting his cloak atwain
(Chateau "Höchster Stadtschloß", Frankfurt)

The Legend of the Cloak

While Martin was still a soldier he experienced the vision that became the most-repeated story about his life. He was at the gates of the city of Amiens when he met a beggar. He impulsively cut his own military cloak in half and shared it with the beggar. That night he dreamed that Christ came to him and returned the half cloak Martin had shared with him - when Martin woke his cloak was restored. The miraculous cloak was preserved as a relic, and entered the relic-collection of the Merovingian kings of the Franks. The Latin word for "short cloak", cappella in Latin, was extended to the people charged with preserving the cloak of St. Martin, the cappellani or "chaplains" and from them was applied to the royal oratory that was not a regular church, a "chapel".


On November 11, Saint Martin's saint's day, children in Germany are doing lantern processions, often a man dressed as Saint Martin is riding on a horse in front of the procession. The children are singing songs about Saint Martin and about their lantern.

To be integrated:

Martin and monasticism in Gaul
Martin and the episcopacy
Sulpicius Severus