Martin of Tours became one of the most popular of all saints, and is a patron saint of France. He followed in his fathers footsteps, at first becoming a Roman soldier, but this was the time of Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, and Christianity flourished. Martin became a believer and was being discipled, and decided that his career in the Roman Army clashed with his new-found faith. He was disciplined for his "conscientious objection", and eventually discharged from the army.
There is a famous story told from this time, about Martin cutting his cloak in two and giving half of it to a beggar, and then seeing in a dream Christ wearing half a cloak and saying, "Martin, a simple catechumen (believer, not yet baptised), covered me with this garment."
In 360, Martin joined Bishop Hilary, whom he admired, at Poitiers. Martin was attracted to the monastic life, and established monasticism in Gaul as a means of converting the countryside; the church having been largely confined to the cities and towns till then. In 372, he was made Bishop of Tours, a position he accepted only on condition he could continue his ascetic lifestyle. Martin also became involved in the contemporary theological debates, arguing firmly for the autonomy of the church against the state. Martin spoke against violent repression of heresy, a stand that was unpopular with some of his fellow bishops, as was his austere life-style. However, he held the position of Bishop of Tours till his death.
BORN: 316, Savaria, Pannonia (modern Hungary).
DIED: 8 November 397, Candes, Gaul (modern France)