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St Martin (13th April)

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Pope Martin I (649–653) has two entries in the Roman Martyrology:

  1. under 16th September: “The birthday of St Martin I, pope and martyr.  He had called together a council at Rome and condemned the heretics Sergius, Paul and Pyrrhus.  By order of the heretical Emperor Constantius he was taken prisoner through a deceit, brought to Constantinople, and exiled to the Chersonese.  There he ended his life, worn out with his labours for the Catholic faith and favoured with many virtues.  His body was afterwards brought to Rome and buried in the church of Saints Sylvester and Martin.  His feast, however, is observed on the 12th of November”.

  2. under 12th November (the traditional date of the translation of the relics to Rome): “The Feast of St. Martin I, pope and martyr, whose birthday is mentioned on the 16th day of September”.

In fact, there a good deal of confusion about his feast day, which is recorded as:

  1. 11th November in the Martyrology of Florus; and

  2. 18th August and 18th September in the Martyrology of Tallaght (ca. 830), an Irish edition of a Northumbrian copy of the Hieronymian Martyrology.

In the revision of the General Roman Calendar in 1969, the feast was moved to 13th April. 

St Martin I was born in what is now Pian di San Martino, outside Todi, but nothing is known about him before he began his career in Rome.  He was elected to the papacy without formal approval of the Emperor Constans II, who duly declared his election invalid.  One of his first acts after his election was to convene the Lateran Council (649) in Rome at which Monothelitism was condemned.  This brought him into conflict with Constans II, who ordered his arrest.

The support of his colleagues in Rome saved him initially.  However, in 653, Constans II ordered the new Exarch of Ravenna to arrest and depose him and to send him to Byzantium.  This order was finally carried out in 653.  He was humiliated, imprisoned and condemned to death, a sentence that was commuted to exile in the Crimea. 

St Martin I was dismayed when his colleagues in Rome elected another pope in May 654.  He died on 16th September 655, apparently as a direct result of his harsh treatment, and was buried in the church of Santa Maria ad Blachernas.  This church no longer exists, but tradition recalls that Pope Sergius II (844-7) transferred the relics of St Martin to a new church (now SS Silvestro e Martino ai Monti) that he had built in Rome.

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