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E00693: Sulpicius Severus describes a vision of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050), and Clarus (monk of Marmoutier, ob. c. 397, S00479) that he had shortly after the former's death, and expresses his belief that Martin will be his patron in heaven. Letter written in Latin in Primuliacum (south west Gaul), in 397.

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posted on 2015-09-03, 00:00 authored by robert
Sulpicius Severus, Letter 2 (to the deacon Aurelius)

Martin appears to Sulpicius Severus in a dream vision in white garments and with shining face, holding in his hand a book describing his life, written by Sulpicius. He blesses the latter and is taken into heaven. Then the author sees Clarus (sanctus Clarus), a monk of Marmoutier, following Martin. Shortly afterwards Sulpicius learns about the death of Martin and expresses both his grief and hope in Martin's patronage and high position in heaven:

Praemisi quidem patronum sed solacium vitae praesentis amisi etsi si rationem ullam dolor admitteret gaudere deberem. Est enim ille consertus apostolis ac prophetis et quod pace sanctorum omnium dixerim in illo iustorum grege nulli secundus ut spero credo et confido illis potissimum qui stolas suas in sanguine laverunt adgregatus agnum ducem ab omni integer labe comitatur.

'I have sent on before me a patron, but I have, at the same time, lost my source of consolation in this present life; yet if grief would yield to reason, I certainly ought to rejoice. For he is now mingling among the Apostles and Prophets, and (with all respect for the saints on high be it said) he is second to no one in that assembly of the righteous as I firmly hope, believe, and trust, being joined especially to those who washed their robes in blood, and follows the Lamb free of any stain.'

There follows a passage of praise for Martin, declaring that had he lived during the persecutions, would have looked for martyrdom and eagerly accepted any torment. Still, Martin suffered a lot during his lifetime and his sufferings can be qualified as a martyrdom:

Sed quamquam ista non tulerit inplevit tamen sine cruore martyrium.

'But although he did in fact suffer none of these things, yet he fully attained to the honour of martyrdom without shedding his blood.'

Finally, the author returns to the issue of Martin's intercession:

Quod mihi ipse sum conscius conscendere arduum illud iter ac penetralia non potero ita sarcina molesta me praegravat et peccati mole depressum negato in astra conscensu saeva miserabilem ducit in tartara. Spes tamen superest illa sola illa postrema ut quod per nos obtinere non possumus saltim pro nobis orante Martino mereamur.

'To such a degree does a miserable burden press me down; and while I cannot, through the load of sin which overwhelms me, secure an ascent to heaven, the cruel pressure rather sinks me in my misery to the place of despair. Nevertheless, hope remains, one last and solitary hope, that, what we cannot obtain of ourselves, we may, at any rate, be worthy of through the prayers of Martin on our behalf.'

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


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, bishop of Tours (Gaul), ob. 397 : S00050 Clarus, monk in Tours, ob. c. 397 : S00479

Saint Name in Source

Martinus Clarus

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

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 - Miracles

Apparition, vision, dream, revelation


This letter, written shortly after Martin's death in 397 AD is a very early testimony to the employment of the term patronus (patron) in reference to a saint and to the firm belief in the intercession of a non-martyr saint (see also E00680). Yet, when expressing this belief, Sulpicius Severus felt a need to justify it by presenting Martin's life as a bloodless martyrdom (martyrium sine cruore). This idea, which appeared already in the Life of Antony (see E00631), will be developed in later hagiography. Clarus, a disciple of Martin who died shortly before him is obviously considered to be in heaven, but this letter does not suggest that he also played the role of a patron.


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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