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E00791: Sulpicius Severus tells of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours in Gaul, ob. 397, S00050) acting before God as a patron of a deceased man and eventually raising him from the dead, all in Marmoutier, near Poitiers (western Gaul), c. 361/372 AD. Account in the Life of Martin, written Latin, in Primuliacum (south west Gaul), c. 396.

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posted on 2015-10-17, 00:00 authored by robert
Sulpicius Severus, Life of Martin 7

A novice catechumen has been dead for three days when Martin arrives.

Corpus in medio positum tristi maerentium fratrum frequentabatur officio cum Martinus flens et eiulans accurrit. 
Tum vero tota sanctum spiritum mente concipiens egredi cellulam in qua corpus iacebat ceteros iubet ac foribus obseratis super exanimata defuncti fratris membra prosternitur. Et cum aliquandiu orationi incubuisset sensisset que per spiritum domini adesse virtutem erectus paululum et in defuncti ora defixus orationis suae ac misericordiae domini intrepidus expectabat eventum. Vix que duarum fere horarum spatium intercesserat videt defunctum paulatim membris omnibus commoveri et laxatis in usum videndi palpitare luminibus. Tum vero magna ad dominum voce conversus gratias agens cellulam clamore conpleverat. Quo audito qui pro foribus adstiterant statim inruunt. Mirum spectaculum quod videbant vivere quem mortuum reliquissent. Ita redditus vitae statim baptismum consecutus plures postea vixit annos primus que apud nos Martini virtutum vel materia vel testimonium fuit. Idem tamen referre erat solitus se corpore exutum ad tribunal iudicis ductum deputandum que obscuris locis et vulgaribus turbis tristem excepisse sententiam tum per duos angelos iudici fuisse suggestum hunc esse pro quo martinus oraret ita per eosdem angelos se iussum reduci et Martino redditum vitae que pristinae restitutum. Ab hoc primum tempore beati viri nomen enituit ut qui sanctus iam ab omnibus habebatur potens etiam et vere apostolicus haberetur.

'The body being laid out in public was being honoured by the last sad offices on the part of the mourning brethren, when Martin hurries up to them with tears and lamentations. But then laying hold, as it were, of the Holy Spirit, with the whole powers of his mind, he orders the others to quit the cell in which the body was lying; and bolting the door, he stretches himself at full length on the dead limbs of the departed brother. Having given himself for some time to earnest prayer, and perceiving by means of the Spirit of God that power was present, he then rose up for a little, and gazing on the countenance of the deceased, he waited without misgiving for the result of his prayer and of the mercy of the Lord. And scarcely had the space of two hours elapsed, when he saw the dead man begin to move a little in all his members, and to tremble with his eyes opened for the practice of sight. Then indeed, turning to the Lord with a loud voice and giving thanks, he filled the cell with his ejaculations. Hearing the noise, those who had been standing at the door immediately rush inside. And truly a marvellous spectacle met them, for they beheld the man alive whom they had formerly left dead. Thus being restored to life, and having immediately obtained baptism, he lived for many years afterwards; and he was the first who offered himself to us both as a subject that had experienced the miraculous power (virtutes) of Martin, and as a witness to their existence. The same man was wont to relate that, when he left the body, he was brought before the tribunal of the Judge, and being assigned to gloomy regions and vulgar crowds, he received a severe sentence. Then, however, he added, it was suggested by two angels of the Judge that he was the man for whom Martin was praying; and that, on this account, he was ordered to be led back by the same angels, and given up to Martin, and restored to his former life. From this time forward, the name of the sainted man became illustrious, so that, as being reckoned holy by all, he was also deemed a powerful and truly apostolic man.'

Text: Fontaine 1967. Translation: Roberts 1894, slightly adapted.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint


  • 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

Considerations about the veneration of saints

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Power over life and death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Unbaptized Christians Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


Unlike other lives of saints, the Life of Martin was written before its protagonist's death (Martin died in 397 AD). Its author, Sulpicius Severus, was an aristocrat and friend of Paulinus of Nola, and like him converted to the ascetic life under Martin's influence. He founded a monastic community in his estate of Primuliacum in Aquitania. The Life of Martin, and the Letters and Dialogues written by Sulpicius Severus after Martin's death, presents him as a perfect monk, bishop and miracle-worker. Sulpicius Severus argues that there is no contradiction between being a good bishop and a monk, and even that only a monk makes a good bishop. This was a novel and controversial idea, since the Gallic episcopacy was generally reluctant to accept ascetic monasticism.


This passage presents the first miracle which Martin performed when living in the monastic community in Marmoutier, close to Poitiers, before his episcopal ordination. This episode is interesting because it is a very early testimony to the intercessory power of a non-martyr saint. Although the word patronus is not used (it will be used by Sulpicius Severus after Martin's death see E00693), Martin behaves here as a patron in late antique Roman society. It is thanks to his support that God, acting here as a Roman judge, decides to release the catechumen and bring him back to life. According to Sulpicius Severus the miracle of raising the dead convinces people that Martin is an apostolic man (vir apostolicus), because he performs miracles equal to those of the Apostles. At the same time the way in which Martin performs the miracle is similar to that in which Elijah brings back to life the son of the widow in Zarephath (1 Kings 17:17-24). In this and other passages Sulpicius often emphasises the parallels between his hero and the great prophet.


Edition, French translation and commentary: Fontaine, J., Sulpice Sévère,Vie de saint Martin. 3 vols. (Sources Chrétiennes 133-135; Paris: Cerf, 1967-1969). 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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