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E00691: Sulpicius Severus responds to a critic who mocked at his Life of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050), and its presentation of him as a miracle-worker. Letter 1, written in Latin, in Primuliacum (south west Gaul), c. 396.

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posted on 2015-09-03, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Sulpicius Severus, Letter 1, to Eusebius

Sulpicius Severus begins this letter by referring to his Life of Martin being read by many people. Subsequently he responds to an unnamed person who mocked at the image of Martin presented in this text. The question asked by the critic is presented in the following way:

(2) Interea indicatur mihi dixisse quendam malo spiritu suscitatum cur Martinus qui mortuos suscitasset flammas domibus depulisset ipse nuper adustus incendio periculosae fuisset obnoxius passioni.

'In the meantime, however, I was told that a certain person, under the influence of an evil spirit, had asked why Martin, who was said to have raised the dead and to have rescued houses from the flames, had himself recently become subject to the power of fire, and thus been exposed to suffering of a dangerous character.'

The author admits that such a situation took place (when Martin was badly burned in a fire), but compares the critic to the Jews who doubted in Christ and emphasises that even the greatest saints happened to be in danger. He compares Martin to Paul the Apostle who once was almost bitten by a viper in the following words:

(3) O beatum et per omnia similem apostolis etiam in his conviciis virum.

'O you blessed man, and in all things like to the Apostles, even in the reproaches which are thus heaped upon you!'

Text: Fontaine 1967. Translation: Roberts 1893. Summary: Robert Wiśniewski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

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

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

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

Major author/Major anonymous work

Sulpicius Severus

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Uncertainty/scepticism/rejection of a saint

Cult Activities - Miracles

Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Miracle during lifetime Power over life and death


This letter was written after the publication of the Life of Martin (not earlier than in 395) and Martin's death (397).


It is difficult to say whether the critic, or most probably critics, that Sulpicius Severus refers to were active in Tours, Toulouse, or elsewhere.


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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