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Saint of the Day - Pope Saint Martin I

Pope Saint Martin I was born between 590 and 600. He died on September 16, 655. He is widely regarded as the last Papal martyr. He was actually arrested in Rome by the Byzantine Empire (some accounts say that he was actually taken into custody while sickly reclining on a couch in front of the altar in the Lateran Basilica in Rome (which was then part of the Papal States and the pope ruled Rome)( To date, he is the only pope taken into custody in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran (named for the Apostle and Evangelist).

Image retrieved from and used as being ion the public domain.

Pope Saint Martin I was born between 590 and 600 near Todi, Umbria in a place that is today named for him (Pian di San Martino - According to his biographer, Theodore, Pope Saint Martin I was of nobility and had an extreme intelligence. He was also extremely charitable to the poor. He may have been part of the Order of Saint Basil and may have been abbott of a monastery.

Pope John IV sent the future pope in 641 to Dalmatia and Istria with vast sums of money t6o alleviate the sufferings of the poor in that region. His mission was also to win the release of captives taken by the Slavs during their invasion. Many of the churches were destroyed and the idea of rebuilding them was beyond consideration as the time. Accordingly, Pope Saint Martin I lovingly and carefully gathered all of the relics he could locate and brought them to Rome. In Rome, Pope John IV erected an oratory in their honor and top house the recovered relics. Pope Saint Martin I acted as a papal legate during the early period of the papacy of Pope Theodore I (his immediate predecessor). Pope Saint Martin I was but a deacon at the time of his election to the :Papacy.

When Pope Saint Martin I was elected Pope in 649, Constantinople was the capital of the eastern Church. The Patriarch there was the most influential leader in the Church at the time. Without awaiting the approval or blessing of the Patriarch, Pope Saint Martin I had himself consecrated as the Bishop of Rome. After ascending to the papacy, one off the first official acts he undertook was to convene the Lateran Council off 649. Its primary purpose was to deal with the Monothelites, who had come up with the idea that, Jesus had only one will. It was condemned as a heresy. Pope Saint Martin I quickly penned down the holdings of the council into a papal encyclical. Emperor Constans responded by sending his armies into Italy.

On June 17, 653, Pope Saint Martin I was arrested along with Saint Maximus the Confessor (feast day August 13) in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran. His captors quickly removed him from Rome, first to Naxos, Greece and then to Constantinople. He was saved from execution by Patriarch Paul II of Constantinople. The imperial Byzantine government forced the election of a new pope, much to the chagrin of Pope Saint Martin I. Pope Eugene I was elected in his stead.

Pope Saint Martin I suffered a long and grueling imprisonment that included many indignities. He was finally exiled to Cherson (on the Crimean Peninsula) on May 15, 655, where he died the ensuing September 16. He was declared a saint prior to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

Pope Saint Martin I, pray for us!



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