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St. Martin was a man of many talents, and careers. He is the Patron Saint of soldiers, horses and their riders, beggars, geese, winegrowers and innkeepers. His feast day is November 11th, and when fine weather occurs at that time of year it is sometimes referred to as ‘a St. Martin's summer’. He was born at Sabaria in Pannonia (modern Hungary) in 316. Because his father was a Roman officer, at the age of 15 he was also obliged to join the army. Martin did this unwillingly, for he regarded hirnself as a soldier of Christ.


There is a well known story about St Martin. On a cold winter day in the town of Amiens, he met a beggar in the street who had no clothes at all. Martin was so sorry for him that he cut his own cloak in half and gave half to the beggar. That night he had a dream in which Jesus appeared and said that Martin had given him his garment. Martin was baptized soon after this, but reluctantly remained in the army. Two years later, the barbarians invaded Gaul and Martin asked permission to resign his commission for religious reasons. As a result he was then charged with cowardice by his commander. Martin demonstrated his courage by offering to stand unarmed in the front line of battle, trusting in the power of the Cross to protect him. The next day, the barbarians surrendered without a fight, and Martin was allowed to leave the army.


He travelled to various places during the following years, spending some time as a hermit on an island off Italy. It was here that he became friendly with St Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, who incidentally made Martin an exorcist. In 371 Martin was chosen to be Bishop of Tours. Nevertheless he did not give up his monastic life, and the place where he settled outside Tours became a monastery. In fact, he is regarded as the founder of monasticism in France. He conversed with angels, and had visions of St Peter and St Paul. He is called the Merciful because of his generosity and care for the poor.


After a life of devoted service to Christ and His Church, Martin fell ill at Candes, a village in his diocese, where he died on November 8th, 397. He was buried three days later at Tours. Hence his feast day the 11th.


During the Middle Ages, many Western churches were dedicated to St Martin, including St Martin’s in Canterbury, and St Martin-in-the-Fields in London. In 1008, a cathedral was built at Tours over the relics of St Martin, but this cathedral was destroyed in 1793 during the French Revolution, together with the relics of St Martin and St Gregory of Tours. A new cathedral was built on the site many years later and some fragments of the relics of St Martin were recovered and placed in the cathedral, but nothing remains of St Gregory's relics.

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St Martin of Tours

St. Hilary lived c.315-367, and has been dubbed the ‘Athanasius of the West.’ Not much is known of his early life, other than that he was born into a pagan home in Linomum (modern day Poitiers), was married, and had a daughter named Apra. In adulthood he was converted to Christianity. All this took place in Poitiers, a city in central France, which was at that time called Gaul.


He had a great interest in theological concerns, became a preacher, and in 352 was sent to the Emperor Constantius by Pope Liberius on a special mission to uphold orthodoxy against the Arians at the council of Milan. Around 353 he was chosen to be Bishop of Poitiers. Often he is referred to as Hillarius. He also seems to have been regarded as a man of a kindly and charitable disposition, but this did not keep him from vigorously defending the Church against Arianism. Because of this he made some enemies who eventually succeeded in getting him exiled to Phrygia in Asia Minor. While in exile he visited many eastern churches and learned new things about the Universal Church. During this time he wrote a theological work called ‘De Trintate’ (On the Trinity), and it is from this writing that St. Hilary's symbol came to be three books and a quill pen. He also wrote ‘De synodis’ (History of Synods).


His presence was considered unwelcome by many in the East, and so after a while he was sent back to Poitiers. St. Hilary brought many wonderful hymns back from the eastern churches. There is no record of who wrote hymns in the western churches at that time, but Greek hymns were probably sung. Maybe some of his first hymns were translations from the Greek, but he soon began writing his own hymns in the Latin language, and for this reason he has come to be known as the Father of the Latin hymn. There are also a few Latin hymns from the early Church, but no one's name was attached to them until St. Hilary's era.


Hilary was proclaimed a ‘Doctor of the Church’ in 1851. His feast day, January 13th, gives his name to the spring term at English Law Courts as well as at Oxford and Durham Universities.


Hilary was known throughout France as a great preacher and author. Martin of Tours was attracted by his sermons, and as a young man came to Poitiers to hear him, remaining for some time as Hilary's disciple.

St Hilary of Poitiers

St Hilary2 St Martin