Illustrated Catholic Family Annual – A Legend of Saint Martin

statue of Saint Martin on Tours on the dome of the Basilica of Saint Martin, date and artist unknown; photographed on 15 September 2012 by ZohaStel; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Saint Martin, having occasion to visit Rome, set out to perform the journey on foot. Satan, meeting him on the way, taunted him for not using some conveyance suitable to a bishop. The saint instantly changed the old serpent into a mule, and, jumping on its back, trotted comfortably along. Whenever the beast slackened its pace Saint Martin excited it to full speed by making the sign of the cross. At last Satan, utterly defeated, exclaimed:

“Signa te Signa: temere me tangis et angis;
Roma tibi subito motibus ibit amor.”

that is

“Cross, cross thyself; thou plaguest and vexest me without necessity, for, owing to my exertions, thou wilt soon reach Rome, the object of thy wishes.”

This distich, in the original, is one of those literary curiosities called a palindrome; that is, it is the same whether read backwards or forwards. Angis at the end of the first line read backwards forms signa, and so on, the other words reversed.

Martinmas is associated with good cheer, as it occurs when the harvests are gathered in, the wine made, and cattle are killed for winter. Geese are killed on this day in France, as at Michaelmas in England. In Scotland and the north of England a fat ox is called a mart, probably from Martinmas, when cattle are ready to slaughter.

“And Martilmas beef doth bear good tack
When country folk do dainties lack,”

says Tusser’s Husbandry.

The French proverb says:

“On Saint Martin’s day
Thy fat pig flay.
And make thy neighbor gay.”

Many inns were called Saint Martin’s, for his name was synonymous with good cheer.

MLA Citation

  • “A Legend of Saint Martin”. Illustrated Catholic Family Annual, 1880. CatholicSaints.Info. 14 January 2017. Web. 27 October 2020. <>