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Martin of Braga

(c. 520—579)


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Bishop (c.520–79).

Born in Pannonia (Hungary), he went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and became a monk there. Possibly as a consequence of pilgrims' information he went to Spain where he founded a monastery at Dumium, which subsequently became a bishopric. But at least equally important was his share in the conversion of the Suevi, a tribe originally from Pannonia which had settled in Galicia and become Arian. He was appointed bishop of Braga (now in Portugal), where he took part in two councils (561 and 572). There it was said that there is ‘but one faith in the province’ but paganism, especially in rural areas, was still widespread.

*Gregory of Tours considered him the finest scholar of his age and his output was varied and unusual. First were two treatises, based on Seneca, concerned with the pursuit of a virtuous natural life. Other moral treatises introduced his readers to so-called proper Christian morality, dealing with pride, vainglory, and humility. He collected sayings from the Desert Fathers for his monks and made an important collection of 84 canons (Greek, Spanish, and African) for the wider needs of the Church. Like his patron Martin of Tours, he was also much concerned with rural paganism; he believed this should be dealt with by persuasion and not coercion: adequate instruction was his primary recommendation to a bishop in a work entitled ‘On the correction of country people’. Martin died at Dumium, and his relics were translated to Braga in 1606. Feast: 20 March.

AA.SS. Mar. 3, 86–91;Works ed. C. W. Barlow (1950, Eng. tr. 1969);J. M. F. Maricq, Leaders of Iberian Christianity (1962);A Ferreiro, ‘The Missionary Labours of St Martin in 6th century Galicia,’ Studia Monastica 23 (1981);O.D.C.C. p. 1044; B.L.S., iii. 207–8.

Subjects: Christianity — Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500).


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