|Saint Martin of Tours,
Bishop - ca. 325-397
St. Martin's life was written up soon after his death by his friend Sulpicius Severus. It was the latter who first told the story, repeated in the Golden Legend and illustrated in countless images, of Martin's charity when, while still a catechumen and a military officer, he came upon a naked beggar on a bitter winter day. He used his sword to divide his military cloak in two, giving one half to the poor man. That night in a vision he saw Christ telling his angels, "Martin clothed me in this robe."
St. Martin was soon baptized, became a monk, and was eventually persuaded to accept the bishopric of Tours.
Sulpicius Severus recounted a number of miracles performed by the saint, including the resurrection of several dead persons. These stories were carried forward into later hagiographical writings, most importantly the Golden Legend.
In the art St. Martin is most often seen sharing his cloak with the beggar, as at left. In this episode he is almost always on a horse (exception). The beggar is not always naked (example).
In 1312-17 Simone Martini executed a series of frescoes in the Chapel of St. Martin in the lower church of St. Francis in Assisi. Subjects include St. Martin's dream of Christ and the cloak, his renunciation of his weapons, the resurrecting of a small child, his death, and many more. (The full series is available online at the Web Gallery of Art.)
Feast day: November 11
At left, 17th century sculpture of St. Martin and the beggar.
Portrait in military garb from a military chapel
Sulpicius Severus, On the Life of St. Martin