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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume XI: November. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

November 12

St. Martin, Pope and Martyr

        From his letters, Theophanes, and especially Anastasius, in Pontific. et in ep. ad Martin. Narniens. episc. The Vener. Card. Baronius, Fleury, l. 38, et Jos. Assemani, Com. in Kalend. t. 6, p. 253.

A.D. 655.

ST. MARTIN was a native of Todi in Tuscany, and became renowned in the clergy of Rome for his learning and sanctity. Whilst he was deacon of that church he was sent by Popa Theodorus in quality of apocrisiarius or nuncio to Constantinople, where he showed his zeal against the reigning heresy of the Monothelites. Upon the death of Theodorus, after a vacancy of near three weeks, Martin was elected pope in July, 649, and, in the October following, held in the Lateran church a council of one hundred and five bishops, against the Monothelites, in which he condemned the ringleaders of that sect, particularly Sergius and Pyrrhus, who had been formerly bishops of Constantinople, and Paul, who was then in possession of that see. The Ecthesis of Heraclius and the Typus of Constans, two imperial edicts, were likewise censured: the former, because it contained an exposition of faith entirely favourable to the Monothelites; the latter, because it was a formulary by which silence was imposed on both parties, and it was forbidden by it to mention either one or two operations in Christ, “The Lord,” said the Lateran fathers, “hath commanded us to shun evil and do good; but not to reject the good with the evil. We are not to deny at the same time both truth and error.”
  The Emperor Constans sent Olympius, his chamberlain, in quality of exarch into Italy, with an order either to cause Martin to be massacred, or to send him prisoner into the East. Olympius, coming to Rome whilst the council was assembled, endeavoured to raise a schism; but not succeeding by open violence, had recourse to treachery, and commanded one of his attendants to murder the pope whilst he was administering the communion in the church of St. Mary Major, which might be more easily done, as the pope carried the communion to every one in his own place. The servant who had undertaken to execute this commission afterwards swore that he had been struck with blindness, and could not see the pope. Olympius, therefore, seeing the pope had been thus protected by heaven, declared to him the orders which he had received, made his peace with him, and marched into Sicily, then in the hands of the Saracens, where his army perished, and he died of sickness. The emperor then sent Theodorus Calliopas exarch, with Theodorus Pellurus, one of his chamberlains, with a strict charge to seize Martin, whom he accused of heresy, because he condemned the type; and charged him with Nestorianism, as the Egyptians did all Catholics. The new exarch and the chamberlain arrived at Rome with the army from Ravenna on Saturday, the 15th of June, 653. The pope, who had been sick ever since October, shut himself up in the Lateran church, but sent some of his clergy to salute the exarch, who inquired where the pope was, 1 saying, he desired to adore him, 2 which he repeated the next day. Two days after, on Monday, Calliopas accused him of having arms concealed: but the pope bade him search his palace, which he did; and no arms being found, the pope said: “Thus have calumnies been always employed against us.” Half an hour after, the soldiers returned and seized the pope, who lay sick on a couch near the gate of the church; and Calliopas presented the clergy a rescript of the emperor, commanding Saint Martin to be deposed as unworthy of the popedom. The clergy cried out, “Anathema to him who shall say that Pope Martin hath changed any point of faith, and to him who perseveres not in the Catholic faith till death.” Calliopas, fearing the multitude, said, “There is no other faith but yours; nor have I any other:” several of the bishops said, “We will live and die with him.” The pope was led out of the church into the palace, and on the 18th of June, taken thence at midnight, and carried in a boat down the Tiber to Porto, where he was put on board a vessel to be conveyed to Constantinople. After three months’ sail he arrived at the isle of Naxos, where he stayed with his guards a whole year, being allowed to lodge in a house. For a long time he was afflicted with a dysentery and a loathing of food. When the bishops and inhabitants sent him any provisions, the guards plundered them, and abused with injurious language and blows those who brought him presents, saying, “Whoever shows any kindness to this man is an enemy to the state.” St. Martin was more afflicted et the injuries which his benefactors received than at his own sufferings. He was brought to Constantinople on the 17th of September, in 654, and, after much ill usage, lay in a dungeon without speaking to any body but his keepers for near three months, from the 17th of September to the 15th of December. In one of his letters he wrote as follows: “It is now forty-seven days since I have been permitted to wash myself either in cold or warm water. I am quite wasted and chilled, and have had no respite either upon sea or land from the flux which I suffer. My body is broken and spent, and, when I would take any nourishment, I want such kind of food as is necessary to support me; and have a perfect aversion and loathing to what I have. But I hope that God, who knows all things, when he shall have taken me out of this world, will bring my persecutors to repentance.” 3 On the 15th of December he was examined by the Sacellarius, or treasurer, in the chamber of that magistrate, in presence of the senate, which was then assembled there. He was removed thence to a terrace, where the emperor might have a sight of him from his window: and the Sacellarius ordered his guards to divest him of the marks of his episcopal dignity. Then delivering him into the hands of the prefect of the city, he said, “Take him, my lord prefect, and pull him to pieces immediately.” He likewise commanded those who were present to anathematize him. But not above twenty persons cried out anathema: all the rest hung down their heads, and retired overwhelmed with grief.  2
  The executioners, laying hold of the saint, took away his sacerdotal pallium, and stripped him of all his clothes, except a tunic which they left him without a girdle, having torn it from the top to the bottom, so that his naked body was exposed to sight. They put an iron collar about his neck, and dragged him in this manner from the palace through the midst of the city, the gaoler being fastened to him, and an executioner carrying the sword before him, to show that he was condemned to die. The people wept and sighed, except a small number who insulted him; but the martyr preserved a calm and serene countenance. Being come to the prætorium he was thrown into a prison with murderers; but about an hour afterwards was taken thence, and cast into the prison of Diomedes, so much hurt and bruised, that he left the staircase besmeared with his blood, and seemed ready to give up the ghost. He was placed on a bench, chained as he was, and almost dead with cold; for the winter was very severe. He had none of his own friends or servants about him, but a young clerk who had followed him weeping. The gaoler was chained to him, and the order for his execution was expected every moment: and the holy pope impatiently waited for martyrdom. But it was delayed, and his irons were knocked off. The emperor went next day to visit the patriarch Paul, who lay very sick, and related to him all that had been done against the pope. Paul sighed and said, “Alas! this is still to augment my punishment.” And he conjured the emperor to be satisfied with what the pope had suffered. Paul died soon after, and Pyrrhus, who had been formerly patriarch, was very desirous to recover that see. During his exile he had abjured the Monothelite heresy under Pope Theodorus at Rome, and had been entertained as a bishop by that church, according to its accustomed law of hospitality towards strangers. Constans sent Demosthenes, deputy to the Sacellarius, to examine St. Martin in prison, whether Pyrrhus had made his recantation at Rome of his own accord, or through solicitations. St. Martin satisfied him that he had done it of his own accord; though he had soon relapsed again. Demosthenes said, “Consider in what glory you once lived, and to what a condition you are now reduced. This is entirely owing to yourself.” The pope only replied, “God be praised for all things.”  3
  St. Martin continued in the prison of Diomedes near three months, to the 10th of March, 615, when he was ordered to be banished to the Taurica Chersonesus on the 15th of May. The famine was so great in that country, that the pope assured his friends, in one of his letters: “Bread is talked of here, but never seen. If some relief is not sent us from Italy, or Pontus, it is impossible to live.” 4 He wrote another letter in September, wherein he says: 5 “We are not only separated from the rest of the world, but are even deprived of the means to live. The inhabitants of the country are all pagans; and they who come hither, besides their learning the manners of the people of the country, have no charity, nor even that natural compassion which is to be found among barbarians. Neither do they bring anything from other places in the barks which come hither to be loaded with salt; nor have I been able to buy any thing but one bushel of corn, which cost me four gold pence. I admire the insensibility of all those who have heretofore had some relation to me, who have so entirely forgot me, that they do not so much as seem to know whether I am in the world. I wonder still more at those who belong to the church of St. Peter, for the little concern they show for one of their body. If that church has no money, it wants not corn, oil, or other provisions, out of which they might send us some small supply. What fear hath seized all these men, which can hinder them from fulfilling the commands of God, in relieving the distressed? Have I appeared such an enemy to the whole church, or to them in particular? However, I pray God, by the intercession of St. Peter, to preserve them steadfast and immovable in the orthodox faith. As to this wretched body, God will have care of it. He is at hand; why should I give myself any trouble? I hope in his mercy, he will not prolong my course.” The good pope was not disappointed of his hope; for he died on the 16th of September, in 655, having held the holy see six years, one month, and twenty-six days. He was interred in a church of the Blessed Virgin, within a furlong from the city of Chersona: a great concourse of people resorted to his tomb. His relics were afterwards carried to Rome, and deposited in a church dedicated long before in honour of St. Martin of Tours. He is honoured by the Latins, on the 12th of November, the day of the translation of his relics to Rome, and by the Greeks on the 13th of April; also on the 15th and 20th of September. By the Muscovites on the 14th of April. His constancy and firmness appear in his letters. They are well written, with strength and wisdom: the style is great and noble, worthy of the majesty of the holy see.  4
  The saints equally despised the goods and the evils of this life, because they had before their eyes the eternal glory with which momentary labours and sufferings will be abundantly recompensed. Can we be called Christians, who, by our murmuring and impatience under the least trials, and by recoiling at the least harsh word, show ourselves to be strangers to the spirit, and enemies to the cross of Christ? It is only by bearing the marks of his sufferings, and by practising the heroic virtues which tribulation calls forth, that we can enter into the bliss which he has purchased for us by his cross. If with the saints we look up at the joys which are to be the recompence of our patience, and consider attentively the example of Christ, we shall receive our sufferings, not only with resignation, but with joy, as graces of which we are most unworthy.  5
Note 1. S. Mart. ep. 15, and Anastas. in S. Martin. [back]
Note 2. To adore and to salute were used in that age promiscuously: and to adore the emperor was a phrase used long before.—Gothofred, ad. Leg. un Cod. Theod. de præpositis sacri cubiculi; and Salmasius ad. Hist. August. [back]
Note 3. S. Mart. ep. 15. [back]
Note 4. Ep. 14. [back]
Note 5. Ep. 7. [back]