Martin was born in 316 in the town of Sabaria in Upper Pannonia (today Szombathely in Hungary), his father was a high Roman officer and hoped that his son would follow in his military footsteps. He named Martin after the Roman god of war – Mars.
The family moved to northern Italy, where Martin was captivated by Christianity, he wanted to be baptized, but all he had to do was enroll among the catechumens. As his father determined, he became a soldier and was transferred to Amiens in northern Gaul (present-day France). And it was here that one of the stories he is known for happened.
In bad weather, he was supposed to meet a half-naked beggar begging for alms. Martin had no money with him, but he wanted to help the beggar, he cut his military cloak in half with his sword. Christ then appeared to him in a dream, covered with half of his cloak, and he heard his words: “Martin, still a catechumen, covered me with this cloak.”
In 339 he received holy baptism. He remained with the army for another 15 years for his officer duties. He was very friendly, and even though he had a servant, he treated him like a brother and invited him to the table, even when his servant was tired, he served him himself. Martin asked to leave the army in March 354, when he refused the so-called donative – a monetary gift from the emperor that was given to soldiers before a battle. Martin was considered a coward. So Martin offered to go out against the Germanic enemies from Alemannia before the army and took a cross instead of a weapon. The Germans asked for peace and the Christians considered it a miracle and Martin was allowed to retire from the army.
He lived a hermit life and after some time was ordained a deacon and then received priestly ordination. With the bishop’s approval, he lived a hermit life and preached the gospel to the villagers. He founded monastic communities in Ligugé in Marmoutier. According to legend, he performed several miracles.
The faithful wanted to elect him bishop after the death of Bishop Libor in Tours. In his modesty, he did not want to become a bishop and, according to legend, he hid among the geese, who betrayed him to their slanderers. Another legend says that the geese disturbed his sermon. Whether the goose is on the table thanks to Martin’s modesty or their unruly behavior, they are already associated with this holiday. The distribution of goose meat had a set order. The lowest servant was given a wing so that he could fly while working, the tallest servant a thigh, the master kept the rest himself. The skin was believed to have medicinal properties and the skin of goose feet was put in shoes under the feet to prevent sweaty feet and corns.
Every year, Martin set out to visit all the villages belonging to the bishopric, traveling by simple means – on foot, on a donkey or in a boat. He founded small monasteries in the countryside and participated in the Christianization of rural Gaul. Many biographers emphasize the many miracles that took place in connection with his religious acts and his displays of devoted love for the afflicted. He advocated for people who were unjustly imprisoned, he did not hesitate to turn to the emperor to save lives. His interventions led to the rescue of Priscilian, who was facing the death penalty, and other death sentences. To prevent the massacres in Spain, he made an agreement with Bishop Ithacius, which was the emperor’s condition, although he considered the actions of Ithacius reprehensible and directed against the ascetic monks.
All his life he was guided by the principles of humanity and Christian love for his neighbor. He lived to the respectable age of 80 years. He was buried on 11/11/397 in Tours in a simple grave among the faithful as he had wished. A large basilica was built over his grave, which was destroyed during the French Revolution. Currently, the basilica of St. Martin. Martin’s cloak is preserved in the royal palace in Paris.
Saint Martin is also associated with the ripening process of grapes. In regions with vineyards, this holiday is often associated with the first tasting of young wine. The wine intended for the celebration of St. Martin is aged for only two weeks, but it still has a taste of its own. Traditionally, the first bottles of wine are opened on November 11 at 11 a.m. and are always poured from the bottle, never from the barrel.
Celebrations 11.11. they are associated with the end of the agricultural year and the celebration of the harvest. This day is associated with joy, food and wine.
Martin’s rolls were also baked on St. Martin’s Day. Perhaps it was for a maid who was leaving her masters for the winter. Maybe it was thanks to the legend, when Martin’s horse left behind horseshoes and they turned into rolls in children’s hands. In any case, this fragrant habit will add a sweet spot to the all-day feast.
Feast of St. So Martina is not only about abundance, but let’s not forget Martin’s modesty and dedication to others.
St. Martin became a symbol of selflessness, sacrifice and support in difficult times, which secured him the position of protector of soldiers and war veterans, as well as seamstresses, furriers and all those who take care of making clothes for others, he became the patron saint not only of soldiers, but also of the poor , shepherds, hosting activities, but also winemakers, and even teetotalers.
Everyone should adopt Martin’s idea: “Whoever is doing well in life should not forget those who live in need” (Antologia, p. 637).