Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 5, 2007
St. Martin a soldier who found Christ in a destitute man
Stirring conversion depicted in painting in hometown church
St. Martin – November 11
By TED FITZGERALD
- WCR photo by Ted Fitzgerald
St. Martin chapel altar in his Pau church has a painting of Christ appearing in a dream to the saint.
L'eglise Saint Martin de Pau was constructed in 1871. It's noted for its elegant apse and transepts, flying butressess and 77-metre-high spire. The patron of the city and church is portrayed in bas-relief on horseback at the tower's second level.
The story of Martin's conversion is a familiar one, of how while serving in a Roman legion in Gaul in 334 he was troubled by the sight of a destitute man begging at one of the gates of the city of Amiens. He was moved to cut his heavy winter cloak in two with his sword to give half to the beggar.
That night, in a dream, Christ appeared to Martin wearing his half-cloak. This experience caused the saint to embrace Christianity and to ultimately become famous as an evangelist and miracle-worker as bishop of Tours.
Visitors to the saint's church in Pau will find themselves in a spacious structure characterized by two subsidiary naves. Most visited chapel is that dedicated to St. Martin where a painting of Christ appearing to the sleeping saint has beneath it a sculpture of Martin at Amiens with the inscribed request in Latin "Sancte-Martine O.P.N." (Saint Martin pray for us.)
Nearby plaques list many of the Great War battle sites and the names of 200 parishioners who fell during the conflict.
Behind the church, overlooking the river, the city ramparts and the famed Boulevard des Pyrenees, a large white stone monument honours the fallen of both world wars.
On it, special note is made of the Flanders battlefields where local men died, and where all the fallen are remembered in the famous poem by Canadian military doctor John McCrae, himself a casualty, "In Flanders fields the poppies blow . . .".
The memorial and the large shaded park on the east side of the church are popular rendevous points and places to relax before or after attendance at one of the several daily or weekend Masses celebrated at the sacred L'eglise Saint Martin de Paur.
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