Popes in a Year
#74 - Pope St. Martin I
Pope from July 21, 649 - September 16, 655 A.D.
Died: September 16, 655 A.D.
Give me the scoop on Martin I.
A native of Tuscany and of noble birth, Martin was known from an early age for being very intelligent and a standout student. As his life went on, he became highly educated and was also acclaimed for his charity to the poor. Prior to being pope, Martin followed in many past pontiffs’ footsteps by serving as papal nuncio in Constantinople, being ordained to the office of deacon during that time. He was also a Basilian, having belonged to the monastic order of St. Basil.
Pope Martin I was elected in Rome on July 21, 649, and was the first pope in many decades who took office without imperial consent. He did this in order to convene a council in Rome to deal definitively with the Monothelite heresy -- that Christ had only one will -- which much of the East had succumbed to believing. Many attempts were made on Martin’s life at the behest of the emperor and the Patriarch of Constantinople, and he was eventually kidnapped, tortured, and exiled. He died in Cherson, a region near modern-day Ukraine, and was buried in a nearby church dedicated to Our Lady. Some of his relics have since been transferred to a church bearing his name in Rome.
his feast day IS TODAY
. How cool is that? We definitely did not plan such fortuitous timing...but the Holy Spirit may have.
What was he known for?
Pope St. Martin I is best known for suffering well for the faith, and for being the last martyred pope. He was arrested along with St. Maximus the Confessor and taken to the island of Naxos, an island in the Aegean sea, having been accused of many trumped up charges. Martin’s own letters indicate he was kept at Naxos for a year, then was taken to Constantinople. After arriving, he was left on the ship’s deck for hours to be jeered at by curious spectators who had heard the (untrue) charges against him, then moved to a prison for 93 days where he suffered from hunger, thirst, and cold.
The saintly pope was not so easily broken, however. So, on December 19 he was brought before the Senate, who attempted to force Martin to endorse heresy (he, of course, refused). After this, he was taken into an open area, stripped nearly naked, loaded with chains, and dragged through the streets of the city. He was then thrown into another prison, where he stayed for 85 days. The emperor, in a stroke of uncharacteristic mercy, exiled Martin I to Cherson in lieu of a death sentence. St. Martin I lived four more months, despite a widespread famine in the region.
Pope Pius VII made a fitting homage to St. Martin I in his encyclical
in the year 1800:
“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 … 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.”
Pope Pius VII, on Pope St. Martin I
One of the miracles related to Pope St. Martin I involved an assassination attempt on his life by one of Emperor Constans II’s henchmen, Olympius. During Mass, Olympius planned to receive Holy Communion from Martin, allowing him to get close enough to slay the pope. However, Olympius later testified that he was suddenly struck blind, preventing him from carrying out the hit.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
The first major hospital in Paris, the Hotel-Dieu de Paris, was founded in 651 by her bishop, St. Landry of Paris, and dedicated to St. Christopher.
Coming tomorrow....Pope St. Eugene I
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope St. Martin I -
Pope Martin I -
Landry of Paris -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Thursday, April 13 at 2:00AM