Monday, November 12, 2012

Sun, Nov 11, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog: Scribe, Hebrews 9:24-28, Psalms 62, Mark 12: 38-44, Saint Martin, Tours France, Szombathely Hungary

Sunday, November 11, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog:
Scribe, Hebrews 9:24-28, Psalms 62, Mark 12: 38-44, Saint Martin, Tours France,  Szombathely Hungary

Good Day Bloggers! 
Wishing everyone a Blessed Week!
Year of Faith - October 11, 2012 - November 24, 2013

P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Serenity Happens). It has a remarkable way of producing solace, peace, patience and tranquility and of course resolution...God's always available 24/7.

We are all human. We all experience birth, life and death. We all have flaws but we also all have the gift knowledge and free will as well, make the most of it. Life on earth is a stepping to our eternal home in Heaven. Its your choice whether to rise towards eternal light or lost to eternal darkness. Material items, though needed for sustenance and survival on earth are of earthly value only. The only thing that passes from this earth to Purgatory and/or Heaven is our Soul, our's God's perpetual gift to us...Embrace it, treasure it, nurture it, protect it...

"Raise not a hand to another unless it is to offer in peace and goodwill." ~ Zarya Parx 2012


November 02, 2012 Message From Our Lady of Medjugorje to World:

"Dear children, as a mother I implore you to persevere as my apostles. I am praying to my Son to give you Divine wisdom and strength. I am praying that you may discern everything around you according to God’s truth and to strongly resist everything that wants to distance you from my Son. I am praying that you may witness the love of the Heavenly Father according to my Son. My children, great grace has been given to you to be witnesses of God’s love. Do not take the given responsibility lightly. Do not sadden my motherly heart. As a mother I desire to rely on my children, on my apostles. Through fasting and prayer you are opening the way for me to pray to my Son for Him to be beside you and for His name to be holy through you. Pray for the shepherds because none of this would be possible without them. Thank you." 

October 25, 2012 Message From Our Lady of Medjugorje to World:

"Dear children! Today I call you to pray for my intentions. Renew fasting and prayer because Satan is cunning and attracts many hearts to sin and perdition. I call you, little children, to holiness and to live in grace. Adore my Son so that He may fill you with His peace and love for which you yearn. Thank you for having responded to my call." ~ Blessed Virgin Mary

October 02, 2012 Message From Our Lady of Medjugorje to World:

"Dear children; I am calling you and am coming among you because I need you. I need apostles with a pure heart. I am praying, and you should also pray, that the Holy Spirit may enable and lead you, that He may illuminate you and fill you with love and humility. Pray that He may fill you with grace and mercy. Only then will you understand me, my children. Only then will you understand my pain because of those who have not come to know the love of God. Then you will be able to help me. You will be my light-bearers of God’s love. You will illuminate the way for those who have been given eyes but do not want to see. I desire for all of my children to see my Son. I desire for all of my children to experience His Kingdom. Again I call you and implore you to pray for those whom my Son has called. Thank you."
~ Blessed Virgin Mary


Today's Word:  scribe  scri·be [skrahyb]

Origin:  1350–1400; Middle English  < Latin scrība  clerk, derivative of scrībere  to write
1. a person who serves as a professional copyist, especially one who made copies of manuscripts before the invention of printing.
2. a public clerk or writer, usually one having official status.
3. Also called sopher, sofer. Judaism . one of the group of Palestinian scholars and teachers of Jewish law and tradition, active from the 5th century b.c. to the 1st century a.d., who transcribed, edited, and interpreted the Bible.
4. a writer or author, especially a journalist.


Today's Old Testament Reading -  Psalm 62

God is strength and love
In God alone there is rest for my soul, from him comes my safety;
2 he alone is my rock, my safety, my stronghold so that I stand unshaken.
3 How much longer will you set on a victim, all together, intent on murder, like a rampart already leaning over, a wall already damaged?
4 Trickery is their only plan, deception their only pleasure, with lies on their lips they pronounce a blessing, with a curse in their hearts.
5 Rest in God alone, my soul! He is the source of my hope.
6 He alone is my rock, my safety, my stronghold, so that I stand unwavering.
7 In God is my safety and my glory, the rock of my strength. In God is my refuge;
8 trust in him, you people, at all times. Pour out your hearts to him, God is a refuge for us.
9 Ordinary people are a mere puff of wind, important people a delusion; set both on the scales together, and they are lighter than a puff of wind.
10 Put no trust in extortion, no empty hopes in robbery; however much wealth may multiply, do not set your heart on it.
11 Once God has spoken, twice have I heard this: Strength belongs to God,
12 to you, Lord, faithful love; and you repay everyone as their deeds deserve.


Today's Epistle -  Hebrews 9:24-28

24 It is not as though Christ had entered a man-made sanctuary which was merely a model of the real one; he entered heaven itself, so that he now appears in the presence of God on our behalf.
25 And he does not have to offer himself again and again, as the high priest goes into the sanctuary year after year with the blood that is not his own,
26 or else he would have had to suffer over and over again since the world began. As it is, he has made his appearance once and for all, at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself.
27 Since human beings die only once, after which comes judgement,
28 so Christ too, having offered himself only once to bear the sin of many, will manifest himself a second time, sin being no more, to those who are waiting for him, to bring them salvation.


Today's Gospel Reading - Mark 12: 38-44

Jesus, the Scribes and the widow
The different way of accounting in the Kingdom of God
Mark 12: 38-44

Opening prayer:

Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection. Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.

a) A key to the reading:
The Gospel text of this Sunday presents us with two opposing but connected facts: on the one hand we have Jesus criticizing the Scribes who used religion to exploit poor widows, and, on the other hand, we have the example of the poor widow who gave to the Temple even what she had to live on. These facts are relevant even today!

b) A division of the text to help with the reading:
Mark 12:38-40: Jesus criticizes the exploitation of the Scribes
Mark 12:41-42: Jesus watches people who place their alms in the treasury of the Temple
Mark 12:43-44: Jesus reveals the value of the poor widow’s action

c) Today's Gospel:
38 In his teaching he said, 'Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted respectfully in the market squares, 39 to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets; 40 these are the men who devour the property of widows and for show offer long prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.' 41 He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, 'In truth I tell you, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; 44 for they have all put in money they could spare, but she in her poverty has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.'

A moment of prayerful silence so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.

Some questions to help us in our personal reflection.
a) What pleased or struck you most in this text? Why?
b) What does Jesus criticize and what does he praise in the doctors of the Law?
c) What social and religious imbalances of that period do we find in the text?
d) How is it that the two coins of the widow are of more value than the great amount put in by the rich? Look carefully at the text and see what follows: “Why does Jesus praise the poor widow?”
e) What message does this text convey to us today?


a) Yesterday’s and today’s context: 
The context in Jesus’ time.
Mark’s text 12:38-44 recounts the last part of Jesus’ activities in Jerusalem (Mk 11:1 to 12:44). Those were very intense days, full of conflicts: the driving out of the sellers in the Temple (Mk 11:12-26), and many discussions with the authorities: (Mk 11:27 to 12:12), with the Pharisees, with the Herodians and the Sadducees (Mk 12:13-27) and with the doctors of the Law (Mk 12:28-37). This Sunday’s text (Mk 12:38-44) reports a final word of criticism by Jesus concerning the bad behaviour of the doctors of the Law (Mk 12:38-40) and a word of praise for the good behaviour of the widow. Almost at the end of his activities in Jerusalem, Jesus sits in front of the treasury where people were putting their alms for the Temple. Jesus draws the disciples’ attention to the action of a poor widow and teaches them the value of sharing (Mk 12:41-44).

The context in Mark’s time.
During the first forty years of the Church’s history, from the 30’s to the 70’s, the Christian communities, for the most part, were made up of poor people (1Cor 1:26). Later some rich people or those who had various problems joined them. The social tensions that existed in the Roman Empire, began to be felt also in the life of the communities. For instance, divisions came to the fore when the communities came together to celebrate the supper (1Cor 11:20-22), or when they met together (James 2:1-4). Thus, the teaching concerning the action of the widow was very real for them. It was like looking into a mirror, because Jesus compares the behaviour of the rich with that of the poor.

Today’s context.
Jesus praises the poor widow because she could share more than the rich people did. Many poor today do the same. People say: The poor never allow another poor person to die of hunger. But sometimes even this is not true. Donna Cícera, a poor lady who went from the country to the periphery of a great city used to say: “In the country, I was very poor, but I always had something to share with another poor person who knocked on my door. Now that I am in the city, when I see a poor person who knocks on my door, I hide for shame because I have nothing to share!” Thus we see on the one hand rich people who have everything, and on the other poor people who have almost nothing to share, and yet share the little they have.

b) Further reflection on today's context:
Mark 12:38-40: Jesus criticizes the doctors of the Law.
Jesus draws his disciples’ attention to the hypocritical and exploiting behaviour of some doctors of the Law. “Doctors” or Scribes were those who taught people the Law of God. But they taught it only by word, because their lives witnessed to the opposite. They liked going about the squares wearing long tunics, accepting the greetings of people, taking first places in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets. In other words, they were people who wished to appear important. They used their knowledge and their profession as a means for climbing the social ladder and of enriching themselves, and not for serving. They liked to visit widows and recite long prayers in exchange for money! Jesus ends by saying: “The more severe will be the sentence they receive!”

Mark 12:41-42: The almsgiving of the widow.
Jesus and the disciples were seated in front of the treasury of the Temple and watched people placing their alms in the treasury. The poor gave a few cents, the rich put in bills of great value. The treasury became full. All gave something for the upkeep of the cult, to support the priests and for the maintenance of the Temple. Some of the money was used to help the poor, since in those days there was no social security. The poor depended on public charity. The most needy among the poor were the orphans and widows. They had nothing. They completely depended on the charity of others. But, even though they had nothing, they made an effort to share with others the little they had. Thus, a very poor widow places her alms in the treasury, just a few cents!
Mark 12:43-44: Jesus shows us where to find God’s will.
What is of greater value: the few cents of the widow or the thousand coins of the rich? For the disciples, the thousand coins of the rich were far more useful to perform acts of charity than the widow’s few cents. They thought that peoples’ problems could be solved by means of a lot of money. On the occasion of the multiplication of the loaves, they said to Jesus: “Are we to go and spend two hundred denarii on bread for them to eat?” (Mk 6:37) Indeed, for those who think this way, the two cents of the widow are of no use. But Jesus says: “This poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury”. Jesus has different criteria. In calling the attention of the disciples to the action of the widow, he teaches them and us where we must look for the manifestation of God’s will, that is, in sharing. If today we shared the goods that God has placed in the universe for the whole of humanity, there would be neither poverty nor hunger. There would be enough for all and there would be some left over for others.

c) Further Reflection: Almsgiving, sharing, wealth
The practice of almsgiving was very important for the Jews. It was considered a “good work” (Mt 6:1-4), because the law of the Old Testament said: “There will never cease to be poor people in the country, and that is why I am giving you this command: Always be open handed with your brother, and with anyone in your country who is in need and poor” (Dt 15:11). Alms placed in the treasury, whether for the cult or for the maintenance of the Temple or for those in need, orphans and widows, were considered an act pleasing to God. Almsgiving was a way of sharing with others, a way of recognizing that all goods and gifts belong to God and that we are but administrators of these gifts, so that there may be an abundance in this life for all.
It was from the book of Exodus that the people of Israel learnt the importance of almsgiving, of sharing. The forty years’ journey in the desert was necessary to overcome the desire for accumulation that came from the Pharaoh of Egypt and that was well implanted in the minds of the people. It is easy to leave Pharaoh’s country. It is difficult to free oneself of Pharaoh’s mentality. The ideology of the great is false and deceiving. It was necessary to experience hunger in the desert so as to learn that what is necessary for life is for all. This is what the Manna teaches: “No one who had collected more had too much, no one who had collected less had too little” (Ex 16:18).

But the tendency to accumulate was there all the time and was very strong. And it constantly reappears in the human heart. It is precisely because of this tendency to accumulate that the great empires in the history of humanity were formed. The desire to possess and to accumulate is at the very heart of the ideology of these human empires or kingdoms. Jesus points to the conversion required to enter the Kingdom of God. He says to the rich young man: “Go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor” (Mk 10:21). This same requirement is echoed in the other Gospels: “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it” (Lk 12:33-34; Mt 6:9-20). Then Jesus adds the reason for this demand: “For wherever your treasure is, that is where your heart will be too”.

The practice of sharing, of almsgiving and of solidarity is one of the marks of the Spirit of Jesus, given to us on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13), and that he wishes to make present in the communities. The result of the outpouring of the Spirit is precisely this: “None of the members was ever in want, as all those who owned land or houses would sell them, and bring the money from the sale of them, to present it to the apostles” (Acts 4:34-35ª; 2:44-45). These alms received by the apostles were not accumulated but were rather “then distributed to any who might be in need” (Acts 4:35b; 2:45).

On the one hand, the coming of rich people into the communities made it possible to expand Christianity, because these offered better conditions to the missionary movement. However, on the other hand, the accumulation of goods blocked the movement of solidarity and of sharing inspired by the force of the Spirit of Pentecost. James wishes to help such people to understand that they had gone the wrong way: “Well now you rich! Lament, weep for the miseries that are coming to you. Your wealth is rotting, your clothes are all moth-eaten.” (Jm 5:1-3). We all need to become students of that poor widow who shared what she had to live on, so as to learn the way to the Kingdom (Mk 12:41-44).

Reference: Courtesy of Order of Carmelites,


Featured Item of the Day from Litany Lane


Saint of the Day:  Saint Martin of Tours

Feast Day:  November 11
Patron Saint:  Soldiers

St Martin Dividing his Cloak, Van Dyck 1618
Martin of Tours (Latin: Sanctus Martinus Turonensis; 316 – November 8, 397) was a Bishop of Tours whose shrine became a famous stopping-point for pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela. Around his name much legendary material accrued, and he has become one of the most familiar and recognizable Christian saints. He is considered a spiritual bridge across Europe, given his association with both France and Hungary.  

His life was recorded by a contemporary, the hagiographer Sulpicius Severus. Some of the accounts of his travels may have been interpolated into his vita to validate early sites of his cult. He is a patron saint of soldiers.

Martin was born in 316 AD in Savaria in the Diocese of Pannonia (now Szombathely, Hungary). His father was a senior officer (tribune) in the Imperial Horse Guard, a unit of the Roman army, and was later stationed at Ticinum (now Pavia), in northern Italy, where Martin grew up.

At the age of ten, he went to the Christian church against the wishes of his parents, and became a catechumen or candidate for baptism. At this time, Christianity had been made a legal religion (in 313), but it was by no means the dominant religion everywhere in the Roman Empire. It had many more adherents in the Eastern Empire, whence it had sprung, and was concentrated in cities, brought along the trade routes by converted Jews and Greeks (the term 'pagan' literally means 'country-dweller'). Christianity was still far from accepted amongst the higher echelons of society, and in the army, the cult of Mithras would have been stronger. Although the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, and the subsequent programme of church-building, gave a greater impetus to the spread of the religion, it was still a minority faith. When Martin was fifteen, as the son of a veteran officer, he was required to join a cavalry ala himself, and thus, around 334, was stationed at Ambianensium civitas or Samarobriva in Gaul (now Amiens, France). It is therefore likely that he joined the Equites catafractarii Ambianenses, a heavy cavalry unit listed in the Notitia Dignitatum.

Episode of the cloak

While Martin was still a soldier in the Roman army and deployed in Gaul (modern day France), he experienced the vision that became the most-repeated story about his life. One day as he was approaching the gates of the city of Amiens he met a scantily clad beggar. He impulsively cut his own military cloak in half and shared it with the beggar. That night, Martin dreamed of Jesus wearing the half-cloak he had given away. He heard Jesus say to the angels: "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized; he has clad me." (Sulpicius, ch 2). In another story, when Martin woke, his cloak was restored.

The dream confirmed Martin in his piety, and he was baptized at the age of 18. He served in the military for another two years until, just before a battle with the Gauls at Borbetomagus (now Worms, Germany) in 336, Martin determined that his faith prohibited him from fighting, saying, "I am a soldier of Christ. I cannot fight." He was charged with cowardice and jailed, but in response to the charge, he volunteered to go unarmed to the front of the troops. His superiors planned to take him up on the offer, but before they could, the invaders sued for peace, the battle never occurred, and Martin was released from military service.

Martin declared his vocation, and made his way to the city of Caesarodunum (now Tours), where he became a disciple of Hilary of Poitiers, a chief proponent of Trinitarian Christianity, opposing the Arianism of the Imperial Court. When Hilary was forced into exile from Pictavium (now Poitiers), Martin returned to Italy, converting an Alpine brigand on the way, according to his biographer Sulpicius Severus, and confronting the Devil himself. Returning from Illyria, he was confronted by the Arian archbishop of Milan Auxentius, who expelled him from the city. According to the early sources, he decided to seek shelter on the island then called Gallinaria, now Isola d'Albenga, in the Ligurian Sea, where he lived the solitary life of a hermit.

Attacking pagans and Arianism

With the return of Hilary to his see in 361, Martin joined him and established a monastery nearby, at the site that developed into the Benedictine Ligugé Abbey, the first in Gaul; it became a center for the evangelization of the country districts. He traveled and preached through western Gaul: "The memory of these apostolic journeyings survives to our day in the numerous local legends of which Martin is the hero and which indicate roughly the routes that he followed." (Catholic Encyclopedia).

In 371, Martin was acclaimed bishop of Tours, where he impressed the city with his demeanor, and by the enthusiasm with which he had pagan temples, altars and sculptures destroyed. It may indicate the depth of the Druidic folk religion compared to the veneer of Roman classical culture in the area, that "when in a certain village he had demolished a very ancient temple, and had set about cutting down a pine-tree, which stood close to the temple, the chief priest of that place, and a crowd of other heathens began to oppose him; and these people, though, under the influence of the Lord, they had been quiet while the temple was being overthrown, could not patiently allow the tree to be cut down". Sulpicius affirms that he withdrew from the press of attention in the city to live in Marmoutier (Majus Monasterium), the monastery he founded, which faces Tours from the opposite shore of the Loire (river). Martin introduced a rudimentary parish system.

Martin's order at Marmoutier

The Abbey of Marmoutier was a monastery just outside today's city of Tours in Indre-et-Loire, France. It was founded by St. Martin around 372, after he had been made Bishop of Tours in 371. The saint founded the monastery to escape attention and live a life of monasticism. Martin was not just the source of status for the abbey, but he was also responsible for drafting the blueprint for Marmoutier’s institutional inviolability by appointing the abbot, Walbert. Walbert’s story demonstrated while Martin was Bishop of Tours, Marmoutier possessed its own abbot, which meant the abbey should remain “outside the dominion of every bishop except as it is necessary for the ordaining of canons.” The best way to protect the abbey’s autonomy was to give it its own abbot.

Mercy to the Priscillianists

His role in the matter of the followers of Priscillian was especially remarkable. The First Council of Saragossa had condemned Priscillian and his supporters as heretics. Priscillian and his supporters had fled, and some bishops of Hispania, led by Bishop Ithacius, brought charges before Emperor Magnus Maximus. Although greatly opposed to the Priscillianists, Martin hurried to the Imperial court of Trier on an errand of mercy to remove them from the secular jurisdiction of the emperor. At first, Maximus acceded to his entreaty, but, when Martin had departed, yielded to the solicitations of Ithacius and ordered Priscillian and his followers to be beheaded (385), the first Christians executed for heresy. Deeply grieved, Martin refused to communicate with Ithacius, until pressured by the Emperor.


Martin died at in Candes-Saint-Martin, Gaul (central France) in 397.


The early life of Saint Martin that was written by Sulpicius Severus who knew him personally, while it expresses the intimate closeness the 4th century Christian felt with the Devil in all his disguises, is at the same time filled with accounts of miracles so extravagant as apparently to challenge disbelief. Some follow familiar conventions— casting out devils, raising the paralytic and the dead— others are more unusual: turning back the flames from a house while Martin was burning down the Roman temple it adjoined; deflecting the path of a felled sacred pine; the healing power of a letter written from Martin, indeed "threads from Martin's garment, or such as had been plucked from the sackcloth which he wore, wrought frequent miracles upon those who were sick."

The first occasion on which Martin restored the dead to life was that of the catechumen who lived with him in his cell near Poitiers. He returned from a three-day absence to find
The body being laid out in public was being honored 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 (Sulpicius Severus, Vita).
In one instance, the pagans agreed to fell their sacred fir tree, if Martin would stand directly in the path of its fall. He did so, and it miraculously missed him very narrowly. Sulpicius, a classically educated aristocrat, related this anecdote with dramatic details, as a set piece. Sulpicius could not have failed to know the incident the Roman poet Horace recalls in several Odes, of his narrow escape from a falling tree.

The shrine and the devotion

The veneration of Martin was hugely popular in the Middle Ages, above all in the region between the Loire and the Marne, where Le Roy Ladurie and Zysberg noted the densest accretion of hagiotoponyms commemorating Martin, but Fortunat declared, "Partout où le Christ est connu, Martin est honoré." When Bishop Perpetuus took office at Tours in 461, the little chapel over Martin's grave, built in the previous century by Martin's immediate successor, Bricius, was no longer sufficient for the crowd of pilgrims it was already drawing. Perpetuus built a more suitably grand basilica, 38 m long and 18 m wide, with 120 columns. His body was taken from the simple chapel at his hermitage at Candes-St-Martin to Tours and his sarcophagus was reburied behind the high altar of the great new basilica; A large block of marble above the tomb, the gift of bishop Euphronius of Autun (472-475), rendered it visible to the faithful gathered behind the high altar, and perhaps, Werner Jacobsen suggests, also to pilgrims encamped in the atrium of the basilica, which, contrary to the usual arrangement, was sited behind the church, close to the tomb in the apse, which may have been visible through a fenestrella in the apse wall.

During the Middle Ages, the supposed relic of St. Martin’s miraculous cloak, (cappa Sancti Martini) was conserved among the relic collection of the Merovingian kings of the Franks at the Marmoutier Abbey, near to Tours. One of the Frankish kings' most sacred relics, it would be carried everywhere the king went, even into battle, as a holy relic upon which oaths were sworn. The cloak is first attested in the royal treasury in 679, when it was conserved at the palatium of Luzarches, a royal villa that was later ceded to the monks of Saint-Denis by Charlemagne, in 798/99. The priest who cared for the cloak in its reliquary was called a cappellanu, and ultimately all priests who served the military were called cappellani. The French translation is chapelains, from which the English word chaplain is derived.  One of the many services a chaplain can provide is spiritual and pastoral support for military service personnel by performing religious services at sea or in the battlefield.  A similar linguistic development was undergone by the small temporary churches built for the relic, to which people began to refer by the word for a little cloak, "capella". Eventually, such small churches lost their association with the cloak and all small churches began to be referred to as "chapels".

St. Martin's popularity can be partially attributed to his adoption by successive royal houses of France. Clovis (Cholodovech), King of the Salian Franks, one of many warring tribes in sixth century France, promised his Christian wife Clotilda that he would be baptised if he was victorious over the Alemanni; he credited the intervention of St Martin with his success, and with several following triumphs, including the defeat of Alaric II. As a result, Clovis was able to move his capital to Paris, and he is considered to be the 'Founder of France'. The popular devotion to St Martin continued to be closely identified with the Merovingian monarchy: in the early seventh century Dagobert I commissioned the goldsmith Saint Eligius to make a wonderful work in gold and gems for the tomb-shrine. The later bishop, Gregory of Tours, made it his business to write and see distributed an influential Life filled with miraculous events of the saint's career. Martin's cultus survived the passage of power to their successors, the Carolingian dynasty.

The Abbey

The Abbey of Saint-Martin at Tours was one of the most prominent and influential establishments in medieval France. Charlemagne awarded the position of Abbot to his friend and adviser, the great English scholar and educator Alcuin. At this time the Abbot was able to travel between Tours and the court at Trier in Germany and always stay overnight at one of his own properties. It was at Tours that Alcuin's scriptorium (a room in monasteries devoted to the copying of manuscripts by monastic scribes) developed Caroline minuscule, the clear round hand which made manuscripts far more legible.

In later times the abbey had known various times of trouble. The basilica was destroyed by fire on several occasions. It was destroyed and ransacked by Norman Vikings in 853 and again in 996. Rebuilt beginning in 1014, by Hervé de Buzançais, treasurer of Saint Martin, both to accommodate the crowds of pilgrims and to attract them, the shrine of St. Martin of Tours became a major stopping-point on pilgrimages; Gothic vaults replaced the Romanesque ones. It continued to grow and in 1096, Pope Urban II consecrated a new chapel. In 1162, Pope Alexander III consecrated the Chapel of Saint Benoit. In 1453 the remains of Saint Martin were transferred to a magnificent new reliquary offered by Charles VII of France and Agnes Sorel.

The basilica was sacked by Huguenots in 1562, during the French Wars of Religion. The abbey recovered, but was disestablished during the French Revolution. It was deconsecrated, used as a stable, then utterly demolished, its dressed stones sold in 1802 when two streets were opened on the site, to ensure it would not be rebuilt.

Revival of Devotion to St. Martin in the Third Republic

Excavations and rediscovery of the tomb

Martin of Tours Tomb
In 1860, excavations of Leo Dupont (1797–1876) established the dimensions of its former site and recovered some fragments of architecture. The tomb of St. Martin was rediscovered on December 14, 1860, which aided in the nineteenth century revival of the popular devotion to St. Martin.

The project for a new basilica took shape in the resurgence of conservative Catholic piety after the radical Paris Commune of 1871 (see following section). The architect selected was Victor Laloux; the style eschewed Gothic for a mix of Romanesque and Byzantine, sometimes defined as neo-Byzantine . The new Basilique Saint-Martin was erected on a portion of its former site that was repurchased from the owners. It was started in 1886 and consecrated 4 July 1925.

The Franco-Prussian War

Martin’s renewed popularity was in large part due to his promotion as a military saint during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. During the military and political crisis of the Franco-Prussian war, the Napoleon III’s second empire collapsed. After the surrender of Napoleon to the Prussians after the Battle of Sedan in September 1870, a provisional government of national defense was established and France’s Third Republic was proclaimed. Paris was evacuated due to the advancing enemy and for a brief time, Tours (September–December 1870) became the effective capital of France.

St Martin was promoted by the clerical right as the protector of the nation against the German threat. Conservatives associated the dramatic collapse of Napoleon III’s regime as a sign of divine retribution on the irreligious emperor. Priests interpreted it as punishment for a nation led astray due to years of anti-clericalism. They preached repentance and a return to religion for political stability. The ruined towers of the royal basilica of St. Martin at Tours came to symbolize the decline of traditional Catholic France.

With the government's move to Tours during the Franco-Prussian War, 1870, a great number of pilgrims were attracted to St. Martin’s tomb, which was covered by a temporary chapel that Monsignor Guibert (archbishop of Tours, 1857-1871) built. The popular devotion to St. Martin was also associated with the nationalistic devotion to the Sacred Heart. The Flag of Sacre-Coeur, borne by Ultramontane Catholic Pontifical Zouaves who fought at Patay, had been first placed overnight in St. Martin’s Tomb before being taken into battle on October 9, 1870. The banner read "Heart of Jesus Save France" and on the reverse side Carmelite Nuns of Tours embroidered "Saint Martin Protect France". The French army was victorious in Patay, which led many among the faithful to believe that the victory was due to divine favor. Popular hymns of the 1870s developed the theme of national protection under the cover of Martin's cloak, the "first flag of France".

The popularity of devotion to St Martin among men is significant because historical evidence shows that "feminization" had affected French Catholicism in the nineteenth century. During the nineteenth century Frenchmen influenced by secularism, agnosticism, and anti-clericalism deserted the church in great numbers. Martin was a man's saint and the devotion to him was an exception to this trend. For men serving in the military, Martin of Tours was presented by the Catholic Right as the masculine model of principled behavior. He was a brave fighter, knew his obligation to the poor, shared his goods, performed his required military service, followed legitimate orders, and respected secular authority. The story of his refusing to bear arms was conveniently forgotten.

Opposition from Anticlericals

During the 1870s, the procession to St. Martin’s tomb at Tours became an impressive display of ecclesiastical and military cooperation. Army officers in full uniform acted as military escorts, symbolically protecting the clergy and clearing the path for them. Anti-clerics viewed the holding of public religious processions as a violation of civic space. In 1878, M. Rivière, the provisional mayor of Tours with anticlerical support banned the November procession in honor of St. Martin. To anti-clerics, religion was supposed to be a private matter and religious devotions were to be practiced at home or church. With the resignation of President Patrice de Mac-Mahon, the first president of the Third Republic, came Republican Jules Grevy, who created a new anticlerical offensive on a national level. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Bishop Louis-Édouard-François-Desiré Pie of Poitiers united conservatives and devised a massive demonstration for the November 1879 procession. Pie’s ultimate hope was that St Martin would stop the “chariot” of modern society and create a France where the religious and secular sectors merged.

The struggle between the two can be seen with the struggle between conservatives and anti-clerics over the church’s power in the army. From 1874, military chaplains were allowed in the army in times of peace, but anti-clerics viewed the chaplains as sinister monarchists and counter-revolutionaries. Conservatives responded by creating the short lived Legion de Saint Maurice in 1878 and the society, Notre Dame de Soldats to provided unpaid voluntary chaplains with financial resources. Ultimately, the anticlerical Duvaux Bill of 1880 reduced the number of chaplains in the French army. Anticlerical legislators wanted commanders, not chaplains, to provide troops with moral support and to supervise their formation in the established faith of patriotic Republicanism.

St. Martin as a French Republican patron

St. Martin has long been associated with France’s royal heritage. However, during the episcopate of Monsignor René François Renou (Archbishop of Tours, 1896–1913) St. Martin began to be regarded as a specifically "republican" patron. He served as a chaplain to the 88e Régiment des mobils d'Indre-et-Loire during the Franco-Prussian war and was known as the army bishop. Renou was a strong supporter of St. Martin and believed that the national destiny of France and all its victories are attributed to him. He linked the military to the cloak of St. Martin, which was the “first flag of France” to the French tricolor, “the symbol of the union of the old and new.” This flag symbolism connected the devotion to St. Martin with the Third Republic. However, the tensions of the Dreyfus Affair renewed anti-clericalism in France and drove a wedge between the Church and the Republic. By 1905, under Rene Waldeck-Rousseau and Emile Combes combined with deteriorating relations with the Vatican, church and state was separated.

St. Martin’s popularity was renewed with the First World War. Anticlericalism declined, as priests served in the French forces as chaplains, with the result that over five thousand of them were killed. In 1916, Assumptionists organized a national pilgrimage to Tours that attracted people from all of France. The devotion to St. Martin was further amplified in the dioceses of France, where special prayers were offered to the patron saint. When the armistice fell on the Saint Martin’s Day, 11 November 1918, the French people saw it was a sign of his intercession in the affairs of France.

European Folklore

From the late 4th century to the late Middle Ages, much of Western Europe, including Great Britain, engaged in a period of fasting beginning on the day after St. Martin's Day, November 11. This fast period lasted 40 days, and was, therefore, called Quadragesima Sancti Martini, which means in Latin "the forty days of St. Martin." At St. Martin's eve and on the feast day, people ate and drank very heartily for a last time before they started to fast. This fasting time was later called "Advent" by the Church.

On St. Martin's Day, children in Flanders, the southern and north-western parts of the Netherlands, the Catholic areas of Germany and Austria participate in paper lantern processions. Often, a man dressed as St. Martin rides on a horse in front of the procession. The children sing songs about St. Martin and about their lanterns. The food traditionally eaten on the day is goose. According to legend, Martin was reluctant to become bishop, which is why he hid in a stable filled with geese. The noise made by the geese betrayed his location to the people who were looking for him.

In Malta, children are sometimes given a bag full of nuts, hazelnuts, oranges and tangerines. In old days, nuts were then used by the children in their games. The parish of Baħrija is dedicated to Saint Martin and on his feast a fair with agricultural produce and animals is organized.

Also, in the east part of the Belgian province of East-Flanders (Aalst) and the west part of West Flanders (Ypres), children receive presents from St. Martin on November 11, instead of from Saint Nicholas on December 6 or Santa Claus on December 25. There are also lantern processions, for which children make lanterns out of beets.

In recent years, the lantern processions have become widespread, even in Protestant areas of Germany and the Netherlands, despite the fact that most Protestant churches do not recognize Saints as a distinct class of believers from the laity.

In Portugal, where the saint's day is celebrated across the country, it is common for families and friends to gather around the fire in reunions called "magustos", where they typically eat roasted chestnuts and drink wine, "jeropiga" (drink made of grape must and firewater) and "aguapé" (a sort of weak and watered-down wine). According to the most widespread variation of the cloak story, Saint Martin cut off half of his cloak in order to offer it to a beggar and along the way he gave the remaining part to a second beggar. As he faced a long ride in a freezing weather, the dark clouds cleared away and the sun shone so intensely that the frost melted away. As this evolution was extremely odd for the time of the year (early November), it is credited to God's intervention. The alleged phenomenon of a sunny break to the chilly weather on Saint Martin's Day (11 November) is called "Verão de São Martinho" (Saint Martin's Summer, veranillo de san Martín in Spanish) in honor of the cloak legend.

Many churches in Europe are named after Saint Martin of Tours. The church of St Martin-in-the-fields at Trafalgar Square in the centre of London and Saint Martin's Cathedral, in Ypres are dedicated to him. St. Martin is the patron saint of Szombathely, Hungary with a church dedicated to him, and also the patron saint of Buenos Aires. In the Netherlands he is the patron of the cathedral and city of Utrecht. He is also the patron of the city of Groningen, and its Martini tower and Martinikerk (Groningen) (Martin's Church) were named after him. The city is often named the Martini-city. He is also the parton of the church and town of Bocaue.

St. Martin is the patron saint of the Polish towns of Bydgoszcz and Opatów. His day is also celebrated with a procession and festivities in the city of Poznań, where he gives his name to the main street (Święty Marcin, from a church in his honor originally built there in the 13th century), and where a special type of crescent cake (rogal świętomarciński) is baked for the occasion. (November 11 is also Polish Independence Day, and is therefore a public holiday.)

In Latin America, he has a strong popular following and is frequently referred to as San Martín Caballero, in reference to his common depiction on horseback. Mexican folklore believes him to be a particularly helpful saint toward business owners.  San Martín de Loba is the name of a municipality in the Bolívar Department of Colombia. Saint Martin, as San Martín de Loba, is the patron saint of Vasquez, a small village in Colombia. Though no mention of St. Martin's connection with viticulture is made by Gregory of Tours or other early hagiographers, he is now credited with a prominent role in spreading wine-making throughout the Touraine region and facilitated the planting of many vines. The Greek myth that Aristaeus first discovered the concept of pruning the vines after watching a goat eat some of the foliage has been applied to Martin. He is also credited with introducing the Chenin Blanc grape varietal, from which most of the white wine of western Touraine and Anjou is made.

Martin Luther was named after St. Martin, as he was baptized on November 11 (St. Martin's Day), 1483. Many Lutheran congregations are named after St. Martin which is unusual (for Lutherans) because he is a saint who does not appear in the Bible. (Lutherans regularly name congregations after the evangelists and other saints who appear in the Bible but are hesitant to name congregations after post-Biblical saints.)

Martin of Tours is the patron saint of the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps, which has a medal in his name and also the Church Lads' and Church Girls' Brigade. Their 5-7 age group was renamed 'Martins' in his honour in 1998.

In modern film



  • Sulpicius Severus On the Life of St. Martin. Translation and Notes by Alexander Roberts. In A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, New York, 1894, available online
  • Clare Stancliffe, St Martin and his hagiographer: History and miracle in Sulpicius Severus (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1983), pp. xvi+400 (Oxford Historical Monographs).
  • Mark Kurlansky (2006). Nonviolence: twenty-five lessons from the history of a dangerous idea. Modern Library chronicles book, Random House, Inc., New York. ISBN 0-679-64335-4.


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Today's  Snippet  I:  Tours France

Tours France
Tours (pronounced: [tuʁ]) is a city in central France, the capital of the Indre-et-Loire department. It stands on the lower reaches of the river Loire, between Orléans and the Atlantic coast. Touraine, the region around Tours, is known for its wines, the alleged perfection (as perceived by some speakers) of its local spoken French, and the Battle of Tours in 732. It is also the site of the Paris–Tours road bicycle race. Tours is the largest city in the Centre region of France, although it is not the regional capital, which is the region's second-largest city, Orléans. In 2006, the city itself had 142,000 inhabitants and the metropolitan area had 306,974.


In Gallic times the city was important as a crossing point of the Loire. Becoming part of the Roman Empire during the first century AD, the city was named "Caesarodunum" ("hill of Caesar"). The name evolved in the 4th century when the original Gallic name, Turones, became first "Civitas Turonum" then "Tours". It was at this time that the amphitheatre of Tours, one of the five largest in the Empire, was built. Tours became the metropolis of the Roman province of Lugdunum towards 380–388, dominating the Loire Valley, Maine and Brittany. One of the outstanding figures of the history of the city was Saint Martin, second bishop who shared his coat with a naked beggar in Amiens. This incident and the importance of Martin in the medieval Christian West made Tours, and its position on the route of pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, a major centre during the Middle Ages.

Middle Ages

In the 6th century Gregory of Tours, author of the Ten Books of History, made his mark on the town by restoring the cathedral destroyed by a fire in 561. Saint Martin's monastery benefited from its inception, at the very start of the 6th century from patronage and support from the Frankish king, Clovis, which increased considerably the influence of the saint, the abbey and the city in Gaul. In the 9th century, Tours was at the heart of the Carolingian Rebirth, in particular because of Alcuin abbot of Marmoutier.

In 732 AD, Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi and a large army of Muslim horsemen from Al-Andalus advanced 500 km deep into France, and were stopped at Tours by Charles Martel and his infantry igniting the Battle of Tours. The outcome was defeat for the Muslims, preventing France from Islamic conquest. In 845, Tours repulsed the first attack of the Viking chief Hasting (Haesten). In 850, the Vikings settled at the mouths of the Seine and the Loire. Still led by Hasting, they went up the Loire again in 852 and sacked Angers, Tours and the abbey of Marmoutier.

During the Middle Ages, Tours consisted of two juxtaposed and competing centres. The "City" in the east, successor of the late Roman 'castrum', was composed of the archiepiscopal establishment (the cathedral and palace of the archbishops) and of the castle of Tours, seat of the authority of the Counts of Tours (later Counts of Anjou) and of the King of France. In the west, the "new city" structured around the Abbey of Saint Martin was freed from the control of the City during the 10th century (an enclosure was built towards 918) and became "Châteauneuf". This space, organized between Saint Martin and the Loire, became the economic centre of Tours. Between these two centres remained Varenne, vineyards and fields, little occupied except for the Abbaye Saint-Julien established on the banks of the Loire. The two centres were linked during the 14th century. Tours is a good example of a medieval double city.

Tours became the capital of the county of Tours or Touraine, territory bitterly disputed between the counts of Blois and Anjou – the latter were victorious in the 9th century. It was the capital of France at the time of Louis XI, who had settled in the castle of Montils (today the castle of Plessis in La Riche, western suburbs of Tours), Tours and Touraine remained until the 16th century a permanent residence of the kings and court. The rebirth gave Tours and Touraine many private mansions and castles, joined together to some extent under the generic name of the Chateaux of the Loire. It is also at the time of Louis XI that the silk industry was introduced – despite difficulties, the industry still survives to this day.

16th–18th centuries

Charles IX passed through the city at the time of his royal tour of France between 1564 and 1566, accompanied by the Court and various noblemen: his brother the Duke of Anjou, Henri de Navarre, the cardinals of Bourbon and Lorraine. At this time, the Catholics returned to power in Angers: the intendant assumed the right to nominate the aldermen. The Massacre of Saint-Barthelemy was not repeated at Tours. The Protestants were imprisoned by the aldermen – a measure which prevented their extermination. The permanent return of the Court to Paris and then Versailles marked the beginning of a slow but permanent decline. Guillaume the Metayer (1763–1798), known as Rochambeau, the well known counter-revolutionary chief of Mayenne, was shot there on Thermidor 8, year VI.

19th–20th centuries

However, it was the arrival of the railway in the 19th century which saved the city by making it an important nodal point. The main railway station is known as Tours-Saint-Pierre-des-Corps. At that time, Tours was expanding towards the south into a district known as the Prébendes. The importance of the city as a centre of communications contributed to its revival and, as the 20th century progressed, Tours became a dynamic conurbation, economically oriented towards the service sector.

First World War

The city was greatly affected by the First World War. A force of 25,000 American soldiers arrived in 1917, setting up textile factories for the manufacture of uniforms, repair shops for military equipment, munitions dumps, an army post office and an American military hospital at Augustins. Thus Tours became a garrison town with a resident general staff. The American presence is remembered today by the Woodrow Wilson bridge over the Loire, which was officially opened in July 1918 and bears the name of the man who was President of the USA from 1912 to 1920. Three American air force squadrons, including the 492nd, were based at the Parçay-Meslay airfield, their personnel playing an active part in the life of the city. Americans paraded at funerals and award ceremonies for the Croix de Guerre; they also took part in festivals and their YMCA organised shows for the troops. Some men married girls from Tours.

Inter-war years

In 1920, the city was host to the Congress of Tours, which saw the creation of the French Communist Party.

Second World War

Tours was also marked by the Second World War. In 1940, the city suffered massive destruction and for four years it was a city of military camps and fortifications. From 10–13 June 1940, Tours was the temporary seat of the French government before its move to Bordeaux. German incendiary bombs caused a huge fire which blazed out of control from 20–22 June and destroyed part of the city centre. Some architectural masterpieces of the 16th and 17th centuries were lost, as was the monumental entry to the city. The Wilson Bridge (known locally as the 'stone bridge'), carried a water main which supplied the city; the bridge was dynamited to slow the progress of the German advance. With the water main severed and unable to extinguish the inferno, the inhabitants had no option but to flee to safety. More heavy air raids devastated the area around the railway station in 1944 causing several hundred deaths.

Post-war developments

A plan for the rebuilding of the downtown area drawn up by the local architect Camille Lefèvre was adopted even before the end of the war. The plan was for 20 small quadrangular blocks of housing to be arranged around the main road (la rue Nationale), which was widened. This regular layout attempted to echo, yet simplify, the 18th century architecture. Pierre Patout succeeded Lefèvre as the architect in charge of rebuilding in 1945. At one time there was talk of demolishing the southern side of the rue Nationale in order to make it in keeping with the new development.

The recent history of Tours is marked by the personality of Jean Royer, who was Mayor for 36 years and helped to save the old town from demolition by establishing one of the first Conservation Areas. This example of conservation policy would later inspire the Malraux Law for the safeguarding of historic city centres. In the 1970s, Jean Royer also extended the city to the south by diverting the course of the River Cher to create the districts of Rives du Cher and des Fontaines; at the time, this was one of the largest urban developments in Europe. In 1970, the François-Rabelais university was founded; this is centred on the bank of the Loire in the downtown area, and not – as it was then the current practice – in a campus in the suburbs. The latter solution was also chosen by the twin university of Orleans. Royer's long term as Mayor was, however, not without controversy, as exemplified by the construction of the practical – but aesthetically unattractive – motorway which runs along the bed of a former canal just 1500 metres from the cathedral. Another bone of contention was the original Vinci Congress Centre by Jean Nouvel. This project incurred debts although it did, at least, make Tours one of France's principal conference centres.

Jean Germain, a member of the Socialist Party, became Mayor in 1995 and made debt reduction his priority. Ten years later, his economic management is regarded as much wiser than that of his predecessor, the financial standing of the city having returned to a stability. However, the achievements of Jean Germain are criticised by the municipal opposition for a lack of ambition: no large building projects comparable with those of Jean Royer have been instituted under his double mandate. This position is disputed by those in power, who affirm their policy of concentrating on the quality of life, as evidenced by urban restoration, the development of public transport and cultural activities.

Points of interest 

Tours Cathedral

Tours Cathedral
The cathedral of Tours, dedicated to Saint Gatien, its canonized first bishop, was begun about 1170 to replace the cathedral that was burnt out in 1166, during the dispute between Louis VII of France and Henry II of England. The lowermost stages of the western towers (illustration, above left) belong to the 12th century, but the rest of the west end is in the profusely detailed Flamboyant Gothic of the 15th century, completed just as the Renaissance was affecting the patrons who planned the châteaux of Touraine. These towers were being constructed at the same time as, for example, the Château de Chenonceau.

When the 15th century illuminator Jean Fouquet was set the task of illuminating Josephus's Jewish Antiquities, his depiction of Solomon's Temple was modeled after the nearly-complete cathedral of Tours. The atmosphere of the Gothic cathedral close permeates Honoré de Balzac's dark short novel of jealousy and provincial intrigues, Le Curé de Tours (The Curate of Tours) and his medieval story Maitre Cornélius opens within the cathedral itself.

Hôtel Goüin

Hotel Gouin
The mansion was built in the 15th century and is incorrectly considered to have been the home of Jean de Xaincoings, treasurer of the assets of Charles VII. The house was the property of René Gardette, a descendent of a family of silk merchants from Tours. The reworking of the facade that dates from the 16th century includes the addition of the porch and loggia and the left wing in early Renaissance style. The sub-basement contains Galloroman remains.

The name Goüin is taken from a wealthy family of Breton bankers who purchased the building in 1738. The family undertook several improvements including the balcony over the rear courtyard, demolition of two houses on the roadside, the enlargement of the south yard, removal of the south balcony, and construction of the entry gate.

In 1944 during the Second World War the building was almost entirely destroyed by bombs leaving only the facade intact. In the 1950s the main accommodation and the entrance were partially restored, while no traces of the garden and and north yard remain.

The building once hosted the Société archéologique de Touraine (Touraine Archeological Society), and is now the home of the Goüin Museum. In 1967, on the occasion of the 40th congress of the French Federation of Philatelic Societies, the building was featured on the 0.40 franc postage stamp.


The inhabitants of Tours (Les Tourangeaux) are renowned for speaking the "purest" form of French in the entire country. The pronunciation of Touraine is traditionally regarded as the most standard pronunciation of the French language, supposedly devoid of any perceived accent (unlike that of most other regions of France, including Paris). Gregory of Tours wrote in the 6th century that some people in this area could still speak Gaulish.


The city of Tours has a population of 140,000 and is called "Le Jardin de la France" ("The Garden of France"). There are several parks located within the city. Tours is located between two rivers, the Loire to the north and the Cher to the south. The buildings of Tours are white with blue slate (called Ardoise) roofs; this style is common in the north of France, while most buildings in the south of France have terracotta roofs.
Tours is famous for its original medieval district, called le Vieux Tours. Unique to the Old City are its preserved half-timbered buildings and la Place Plumereau, a square with busy pubs and restaurants, whose open-air tables fill the centre of the square. The Boulevard Beranger crosses the Rue Nationale at the Place Jean-Jaures and is the location of weekly markets and fairs.

Tours is famous for its many bridges crossing the river Loire. One of them, the Pont Wilson, collapsed in 1978, but was rebuilt just like it was before. Near the cathedral, in the garden of the ancient Palais des Archevêques (now Musée des Beaux-Arts), is a huge cedar tree planted by Napoleon. The garden also has in an alcove a stuffed elephant, Fritz. He escaped from the Barnum and Bailey circus during their stay in Tours in 1902. He went mad and had to be shot down, but the city paid to honor him, and he was stuffed as a result. Tours is home to François Rabelais University, the site of one of the most important choral competitions, called Florilège Vocal de Tours International Choir Competition, and is a member city of the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing.


Tram model, design by the French agency RCP Design Global
Today, with its extensive rail (including TGV) and autoroute links to the rest of the country, Tours is a jumping-off point for tourist visits to the Loire Valley and the royal chateaux.  Tours is on one of the main lines of the TGV. It is possible to travel to the west coast at Bordeaux in two and a half hours, to the Mediterranean coast via Avignon and from there to Spain and Barcelona, or to Lyon, Strasbourg and Lille. It takes less than one hour by train from Tours to Paris by TGV and one hour and a half to Charles de Gaulle airport. Tours has two main stations: the central station Gare de Tours, and Gare de Saint-Pierre-des-Corps, just outside the centre, the station used by trains that do not terminate in Tours. Tours Loire Valley Airport connects the Loire Valley to London Stansted Airport, Marseille and Porto. Scheduled flights to Dublin and Manchester as well as charter flights to Ajaccio and Figari are also available during the summer. Tours does not have a metro rail system; instead there is a bus service, the main central stop being Jean Jaures, which is next to the Hôtel de Ville, and rue Nationale, the high street of Tours. A tram network is under construction; completion is expected in September 2013, and 21 Citadis trams have been ordered from Alstom designed by RCP Design Global.

Catholics from Tours 

Tours is a special place for Catholics who follow the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It was in Tours in 1843 that a Carmelite nun, Sister Marie of St Peter reported a vision which started the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, in reparation for the many insults Christ suffered in His Passion. The Golden Arrow Prayer was first made public by her in Tours.

The Venerable Leo Dupont also known as The Holy Man of Tours lived in Tours at about the same time. In 1849 he started the nightly adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in Tours, from where it spread within France. Upon hearing of Sister Marie of St Peter’s reported visions, he started to burn a vigil lamp continuously before a picture of the Holy Face of Jesus and helped spread the devotion within France. The devotion was eventually approved by Pope Pius XII in 1958 and he formally declared the Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus as Shrove Tuesday (the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday) for all Roman Catholics. The Oratory of the Holy Face on Rue St. Etienne in Tours receives many pilgrims every year.

The Oratory of the Holy Face is a Roman Catholic prayer oratory in Tours France. It is the site where devotions to the Holy Face of Jesus started in Tours by Venerable Leo Dupont based on messages reported by Sister Marie of St. Peter. It receives many Catholic pilgrims every year. The site was originally the drawing room of Venerable Leo Dupont where he continuously burned a vigil lamp before an image of the Holy Face of Jesus based on a painting of the Veil of Veronica. Dupont also used to invite people to pray in front of the image of the Holy Face of Jesus at the oratory. Dupont was inspired to pray to the Holy Face of Jesus based on the messages of the Carmelite nun Sister Marie of St. Peter. When Leo Dupont died in 1876, his house on Rue St. Etienne in Tours was purchased by the Archdiocese of Tours and turned into a prayer oratory. Archbishop Charles-Théodore Colet of Tours then approved of an order of priests called the Priests of the Holy Face to administer the chapel. The order was canonically erected in 1876 and Father Peter Javier, a friend of Dupont, was appointed as its director.

The oratory, and Dupont's prayers have been associated with a large number of reported cures. The Dublin Review of 1885 reported that Mgr. Paul Guerin testified to having himself seen over 6000 certificates of cures wrought by virtue of the miraculous oil from the lamp in the oratory. Pope Leo XIII who approved of the Holy Face devotions in 1885 also expressed a desire to establish a similar oratory in Rome. A number of well known Catholics have prayed at the oratory, e.g. Blessed Louis and Blessed Zelie Martin, the parents of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. Saint Therese was introduced to the devotion by her blood sister Celine and was later called Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. The poems and prayers she wrote helped to spread the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus.

Tours was the site of the episcopal activity of St. Martin of Tours and has further Christian connotations in that the pivotal Battle of Tours in 732 is often considered the very first decisive victory over the invading Islamic forces, turning the tide against them. The battle also helped lay the foundations of the Carolingian Empire.


  • Dorothy Scallan. "The Holy Man of Tours." (1990) ISBN 0-89555-390-2
  • Joan Carroll Cruz, OCDS. "Saintly Men of Modern Times." (2003) ISBN 1-931709-77-7
  •  Davis, Paul K. (1999) "100 Decisive Battles From Ancient Times to the Present" ISBN 0-19-514366-3 
  • C.B. Black (1876), "Tours", Guide to the north of France, Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black 
  • "Tours", Northern France, Leipsic: Karl Baedeker, 1899, OCLC 2229516


Today's  Snippet  II:  Szombathely Hungary

Szombathely Hungary
Szombathely (Hungarian pronunciation: [sombɒt.hɛj], German: Steinamanger) is the 10th largest city in Hungary. It is the administrative centre of Vas county in the west of the country, located near the border with Austria. The oldest city in Hungary, it is known as the birthplace of Saint Martin of Tours and the Duke of Armbrust. Szombathely lies by the streams Perint and Gyöngyös (literally 'pearly'), at 47°14′N 16°38′E, where the Alpokalja (Lower Alps) mountains meet the Little Hungarian Plain.  The name Szombathely is from Hungarian szombat, "Saturday" and hely, "place", referring to the fact that medieval markets were held on Saturday every week. The Latin name Savaria or Sabaria comes from Sibaris, the Latin name for the stream Gyöngyös. The root of the word is the Proto-Indo-European word seu, meaning "wet". The Austrian reach of the stream is still called Zöbern, a variation of its Latin name. Other languages: in Croatian Sambotel, in Slovene Sombotel. The German name Steinamanger means "stones on a field" (Stein am Anger). The name was coined by German settlers who encountered the ruins of the Roman city of Savaria.


Savaria, the Roman city

Szombathely is the oldest city in Hungary. It was founded in 45 AD under the name of Colonia Claudia Savariensum (Claudius' Colony of Savarians) and it was the capital of the Pannonia Superior province of the Roman Empire. It lay close to the important "Amber Road" trade route. The city also had an imperial residence, a public bath and an amphitheatre. Remains of a mithraeum were discovered in 2008. Emperor Constantine the Great visited Savaria several times. He ended the persecution of Christians, which previously claimed the lives of many people in the area, including Bishop St. Quirinus, St. Rutilus and St. Irenaeus. The emperor reorganised the colonies and made Savaria the capital of the province Pannonia Prima. This era was the height of prosperity for Savaria, its population grew, new buildings were erected, among them theatres and churches. St. Martin of Tours was born here. After the death of Emperor Valentinian III the Huns invaded Pannonia and Attila's armies occupied Savaria between 441 and 445. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 456.

Savaria/Szombathely in the Middle Ages

Óperint Street - 1700th anniversary Plaque 
of Bishop St. Quirinus's  death
The city remained inhabited throughout the Middle Ages. Its city walls were restored, and new buildings were built using the stones from the destroyed Roman buildings. Much of the Latin population moved away, mostly to Italy, while new settlers, mostly Goths and Longobards, arrived.  In the 6th–8th centuries the city was inhabited by Eurasian Avars and Slavic tribes. 

In 795 the Franks defeated these peoples and occupied the city. Charlemagne visited the city where St. Martin was born. King Arnulf of the Franks gave the city to the archbishop of Salzburg in 875. It is likely that the castle was built around this time, using the stones from the Roman baths. Savaria was then briefly occupied by Moravians. 

Around 900 the city was occupied by Hungarians. In 1009 Stephen I gave the city to the newly founded Diocese of Győr. The city suffered during the war between King Sámuel Aba and Holy Roman Emperor Henry III, between 1042 and 1044. Szombathely was destroyed during the Mongol invasion of Hungary in 1241–1242 but was rebuilt shortly after and was granted Free royal town status in 1407. In 1578 it became the capital of Vas comitatus. The city prospered. In 1605 it was occupied by the armies of István Bocskai.

Szombathely in modern times

During the Ottoman occupation of Hungary the Ottomans invaded the area twice, first in 1664, when they were defeated at the nearby town Szentgotthárd, and again in 1683, during the Battle of Vienna. The city walls protected Szombathely both times. A peaceful period followed the retreat of the Turks until Prince Rákóczi's rebellion against the Habsburgs in the early 18th century. During the rebellion the city supported the prince. It was occupied by Habsburg armies in 1704, freed in November 1705, then occupied alternately by the two armies over the next years. 

 In June 1710, more than 2000 people lost their lives in a plague, and on May 3, 1716 the city was destroyed by a fire. The new settlers who came were chiefly Germans, and the city had a German majority for a long time. The city began to prosper again. With the support of Ferenc Zichy, Bishop of Győr, a high school was built in 1772. The Diocese of Szombathely was founded in 1777 by Maria Theresa. The new bishop of Szombathely, János Szily did much for the city: he had the ruins of the castle demolished and had new buildings built, including a cathedral, the episcopal palace complex and a school (opened in 1793).

In 1809 Napoleon's armies occupied the city and held it for 110 days, following a short battle on the main square. In 1817 two thirds of the city was destroyed by fire. In 1813 a cholera epidemic claimed many lives.
During the revolution in 1848-49 Szombathely supported the revolution, but there were no battles in the area because the city remained under Habsburg rule. The years after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 brought prosperity. A railway line reached the city in 1865, and in the 1870s Szombathely became a major railway junction. In 1885 the nearby villages Ó-Perint and Szentmárton were annexed to the city.
In the 1890s, when Gyula Éhen was the mayor, the city underwent significant developedment. Roads were paved, a sewage system built, the tram line was built between the rail station, the downtown and the Calvary Church. The City Casino, the Great Hotel and the area's first orphanage were built. The population became four times larger under four decades.
During the mayoralty of Tóbiás Brenner this prosperity continued. A museum, public bath, monasteries and several new downtown mansions were built, and a school of music and orchestra were founded.

Szombathely in the 20th and 21st centuries

After the Treaty of Trianon Hungary lost many of its western territories to Austria, and Szombathely, being only 10 kilometres from the new state border, ceased to be the centre of Western Hungary. Charles IV, when trying to get the throne of Hungary back, was greeted with enthusiasm in Szombathely, but his attempt to regain rule over Hungary failed.

Between the world wars Szombathely prospered, lots of schools were founded, and between 1926 and 1929 the Transdanubian region's most modern hospital was built. During World War II, as with many other towns in the region, Szombathely became a target due to the railway, junction, marshalling yards, local aerodrome, and barracks. The town therefore formed part of the logistical military infrastructure supporting Axis forces. The town and locality was attacked by day on several occasions in 1944 and 1945 by aircraft of the US 15th Air Force, which also included aircraft from the Royal Air Force 205 Group which made their attacks by night. These aircraft operated from bases in Italy.

On 28 March 1945 the 6th SS Panzer and 6th Armies were pushed back by an assault across the Raba River by the 46th and 26th Armies of the USSR and the 3rd Ukrainian Front. Soviet forces came in control of Szombathely on 29 March 1945.  After the war the city grew, absorbing many nearby villages (Gyöngyöshermán, Gyöngyösszőlős, Herény, Kámon, Olad, Szentkirály, Zanat and Zarkaháza). During the revolution in 1956 it was occupied by the Soviet army.  

In the 1970s the city was industrialized, many factories were built. In the 1980s the city prospered, several new buildings were built, including the County Library, public indoor swimming pools, a gallery. In 2006 the refurbishing of the city centre's main square was completed, with financial assistance from EU funds.