Saint Pope Martin I


Indeed, the famous Martin who long ago won great praise for this See, commends faithfulness and fortitude to Us by his strengthening and defense of the truth and by the endurance of labors and pains. He was driven from his See and from the City, stripped of his rule, his rank, and his entire fortune. As soon as he arrived in any peaceful place, he was forced to move. Despite his advanced age and an illness which prevented his walking, he was banished to a remote land and repeatedly threatened with an even more painful exile. Without the assistance offered by the pious generosity of individuals, he would not have had food for himself and his few attendants. Although he was tempted daily in his weakened and lonely state, he never surrendered his integrity. No deceit could trick, no fear perturb, no promises conquer, no difficulties or dangers break him. His enemies could extract from him no sign which would not prove to all that Peter "until this time and forever lives in his successors and exercises judgment as is particularly clear in every age" as an excellent writer at the Council of Ephesus says. - Pope Pius VII, Diu Satis


According to his biographer Theodore, Saint Martin I was born near Todi, Umbria (the town has since been renamed in his honor, Pian di San Martino) into a noble family. Saint Martin joined the Order of Saint Basil and was by all accounts extremely intelligent and pious, always giving to the poor and serving God in all ways. Pope John IV sent Saint Martin into Dalmatia and Istria with large amounts of gold and silver to both help the poor of the land and to ensure the ransom of Christians who had been captured during the Slavic invasions. During his stay in these lands, Saint Martin brought back relics of Dalmatian Saints (their churches had been destroyed in the Slavic invasions, preventing safe harbor) to Rome where an oratory was erected in their honor. Between 642 and 649, Saint Martin served as Papal Legate to the court at Constantinople and served as a deacon. In 649, Saint Martin was elected Pope.


It is important to note that at the time of his election, Constantinople was the seat of the Eastern Roman Emperor and the patriarch of Constantinople was the most influence Church leader in the eastern world. Popes elected in Rome were required to receive the approval of the Emperor in Constantinople for episcopal consecration. Justinian I appointed the first three Popes of this time after conquering the Italian peninsula in the Gothic War and pulled them from Greece, Syria and Sicily resulting in melting pot of Eastern and Western Christian traditions in both the art and Liturgy of the time. Pope Martin broke with this tradition and had himself consecrated prior to the imperial ratification of the election.





Moving quickly, the now Pope Saint Martin convened the Lateran Council of 649 in an effort to combat the Monothelites (who held a heretical view that Christ had only one will rather than a human and divine will). 105 Bishops attended in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran and through five sessions in the month of October 649 issued twenty canons condemning the Monothelitism heresy and it's authors. The council's official decree included both the Ecthesis (the letter in which Byzantine Emperor Heraclius defined Monothelitism as the official Imperial form of Christianity) but also the Type (the edict issued by Emperor Constans II). Not one to take the defiance to an Imperial order lightly, Constans II moved quickly and directed his exarch in Italy, Theodore I Calliopas to arrest Saint Martin and bring him to Constantinople.


On June 17th, 653, Saint Pope Martin and Saint Maximus the Confessor were arrested in the

Lateran basilica. They were both quickly send to Constantinople and arrived on September 17th, 653. Constans II intended to have him executed, but Saint Martin was spared an immediate execution through the intercession of Patriarch Paul II of Constantinople. Eugene I was elected Pope on August 10th of 654 while Saint Martin was held in captivity. After both a terrible imprisonment of nightmarish conditions and many public shamings and indignities, Saint Martin was banished to Cherson (Southern Crimea). It was here Saint Martin died on September 16th, 655AD.


Many of the documents that recorded his trial and exile have been preserved and were translated into Latin by Anastasius Bibliothecarius in the ninth century. Saint Martin's memorial was originally set for November 12th, but was moved to April 13th during the 1969 revision of the General Roman Calendar. The Byzantine-Rite Churches celebrate his memorial on April 14th. The Byzantine Church breviary states for his memorial:


"Glorious definer of the Orthodox Faith... sacred chief of divine dogmas, unstained by error... true reprover of heresy... foundation of bishops, pillar of the Orthodox faith, teacher of religion.... Thou didst adorn the divine see of Peter, and since from this divine Rock, thou didst immovably defend the Church, so now thou art glorified with him.”

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