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E00635: In his Letter 3, Sulpicius Severus pretends to reproach his mother-in-law, Bassula, sojourning in Trier, for publishing his writings on *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050). He also describes Martin's death in an unnamed village (otherwise identified with Candes) and his funeral in Tours (Gaul).Letter written in Latin, in Primuliacum or Toulouse (south west Gaul), in 397.

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posted on 2015-08-07, 00:00 authored by robert
Sulpicius Severus, Letter 3, to Bassula

Sulpicius Severus pretends to reproach his mother-in-law, Bassula for copying and publishing without his consent his letter to the deacon Aurelius (Letter 2, $E00693), bringing news of Martin's death, as well as his other writings. Yet at the same time he yields to Bassula's wish and describes Martin's last days, death in a village, and funeral in Tours, begging or rather pretending to beg her to keep the letter for herself.

The letter descrubes the last miracle of Martin who chased away birds of prey by his word, his last confrontation with the devil who appeared at his deathbed, and the unusual whiteness of his dead body and angelic face. There follows a description of the funeral in which crowds of peasants, inhabitants of Tours and other cities, monks, and consecrated virgins took part. The funeral procession is presented as better than the imperial triumph. Finally, the belief in Martin's posthumous protection is expressed in the following words:

Letter 3.21
Conparetur si placet saecularis illa pompa non dicam funeris sed triumphi quid simile Martini exequiis aestimabitur.Ducant illi prae curribus suis vinctos post terga captivos Martini corpus hi qui mundum ductu illius vicerant prosequuntur. Illos confusis plausibus populorum honoret insania Martino divinis plauditur psalmis Martinus hymnis caelestibus honoratur. Illi post triumphos suos in Tartara saeva trudentur Martinus Abrahae sinu laetus excipitur Martinus pauper et modicus caelum dives ingreditur. Illinc nos ut spero custodiens me haec scribentem respicit te legentem.

'Let there be compared with this spectacle, I will not say the worldly pomp of a funeral, but even of a triumph; and what can be reckoned similar to the obsequies of Martin? Let them lead before their chariots captives with their hands bound behind their backs. Those accompanied the body of Martin who, under his guidance, had overcome the world. Let madness honour these earthly warriors with the united praises of nations. Martin is praised with the divine psalms, Martin is honored in heavenly hymns. They, after their triumphs here are over, shall be thrust into cruel Tartarus, while Martin is joyfully received into the bosom of Abraham. Martin, poor and insignificant on earth, has a rich entrance granted him into heaven. From that blessed region, as I trust, he looks upon me, as my guardian, while I am writing these things, and upon you while you read them.'

Text: Fontaine 1967. Translation: Roberts 1894, slightly modified. Summary: Robert Wiśniewski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, bishop of Tours (Gaul), ob. 397 : S00050

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Toulouse Primuliacum

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Toulouse Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré Primuliacum Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Major author/Major anonymous work

Sulpicius Severus

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Ceremonies at burial of a saint

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle with animals and plants Miracle during lifetime Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures Bodily incorruptibility Miracle at martyrdom and death Miracles experienced by the saint

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Crowds Peasants

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


Sulpicius must have written this letter some time after Martin's death on 11 November 397. He says that he is in Toulouse at this moment, but by this he possibly means his estate of Primuliacum, in which he lived in a monastic community.


The letter expresses the same belief in Martin's ability to acts as Sulpicius' patron which can be seen in the Letter 2 (see E00693). The place of Martin's death is identified with Candes thanks to Gregory of Tours, Histories 1.43 (see E02018).


Edition, French translation and commentary: Fontaine, J., Sulpice Sévère,Vie de saint Martin. Vol. 1 (Sources Chrétiennes 133; Paris: Cerf, 1967), 316-344. English translation: Roberts, A., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Second Series, vol. 11 (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1894).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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