Catholic Encyclopedia – Saint Martin of Braga

detail of an illustration of Saint Martin of Braga presenting a Bible, representing orthodox Christian teaching, to the pagan Galacian king Suevi; swiped off the Wikipedia web siteArticle

(Bracara; or, of Dumio) Bishop and ecclesiastical writer; born about 520 in Pannonia; died in 580 at Braga in Portugal. He made a pilgrimage to Palestine, where he became a monk and met some Spanish pilgrims whose narrations induced him to come to Galicia (Northwestern Spain) with the purpose of converting the Suevi, some of whom were still half pagans and others Arians. He arrived in Spain in 550, founded various monasteries, among them that of Dumio, of which he became abbot and afterwards bishop. At the Synod of Braga, in May, 561, he signed as Bishop of Dumio. Later he became Archbishop of Braga and, as such, presided over the second Council of Braga in 572. He was successful in converting the Arian Galicians and rooting out the last remnants of paganism among them. He is venerated as a saint, his feast day being 20 March. His great learning and piety are attested by Gregory of Tours, who styles him full of virtue (plenus virtutibus) and second to none of his contemporaries in learning (“in tantum se litteris imbuit ut nulli secundus sui temporis haberetur”).

His writings consist chiefly of moral, liturgical, and ascetical treatises. The best known of his moral treatises, “Formula vitae honestae” or “De differentiis quatuor virtutum”, as St. Isadore of Seville (De viris illustribus xxxv) entitles it, is an exposition of Christian life chiefly for laymen, from the standpoint of the four cardinal virtues, and is believed to be based on a lost work of Seneca. His little work, “De ira”, is merely a compendium of Seneca’s three books, “De ira”. The two preceding works proceed from the standpoint of natural ethics, while his three other moral treatises: “Pro repellenda jactantia”, “De superbia”, and “Exhortatio humilitatis”, are expositions of Christian morality. Of great importance in the history of medieval canon law is Martin’s collection of eighty-four canons: “Collectio orientalium canonum, seu Capitula Martini”, which was compiled after 561, and contains mostly Greek, also a few Spanish and African, canons. It is in two parts; the first, containing sixty-eight canons, treats of the ordination and the duties of clerics; the second, containing sixteen canons, treats chiefly of the duties and faults of laymen. His two liturgical works are a little treatise: “De pascha”, in which he explains to the people the reason why Easter is celebrated at variable periods between IX Kal. April, and XI Kal. Maii, and “Epistola ad Bonifatium de trina mersione”, in answer to a letter from a Spanish bishop who supposed that the custom of triple aspersion in baptism was of Arian origin. His ascetical works are “Sententiae patrum Ægyptiorum”, a collection of edifying narratives concerning Egyptian monastic life, and of pious sayings of Egyptian abbots, which he translated from the Greek; and another work of similar nature,”Verba seniorum”, translated from the Greek by Paschasius, a deacon of Dumio, by order and with the help of Martin. He also wrote an interesting sermon “De correctione rusticorum”, against the pagan superstitions which were still prevalent among the peasantry of his diocese. There are also extant three poetical inscriptions, “In basilico”, “In refectorio”, “Epistaphium”. No complete edition of Martin’s works has ever been published. His “Formula vitae honestae”, “Libellus de moribus” (spurious), “Pro repellanda jactantia”, “De superbia”, “Exhortatio humilitatis”, “De ira”, “De pascha”, and the three poetical inscriptions are printed in Gallandi, “Bibl. Vet. Patr.”, XII, 275-288, and in Migne, P.L., LXXII, 21-52. Migne also reprints “Verba seniorum” (P.L. LXXIII, 1025-62);” “AEgyptiorum patrum sententiae (P.L., LXXIV, 381-394); “Capitula Martini” (P.L., 574-586). The sermon, “De correctione rusticorum” was edited with notes and a learned disquisition on Martin’s life and writings by C.P. Caspari (Christiania, 1883). The epistle, “De trina mersione”, is printed in “Collectio maxima conciliorum Hispaniae” II (Rome, 1693), 506, and in “Espa a sagrada”, XV (Madrid, 1759), 422. The latest editions of the “Formula honestae vitae” were prepared by Weidner (Magdeburg, 1872) and May (Neisse, 1892). The treatise “De pascha” was recently edited by Burn, in “Niceta of Remesiana” (Cambridge, 1905), 93 sq.

MLA Citation

  • Michael Ott. “Saint Martin of Braga”. Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913. CatholicSaints.Info. 19 February 2015. Web. 23 February 2017. <>