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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XI:
The Works of Sulpitius Severus.: Chapter I.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter I.

Well then, when first, having left the schools, I attached myself to the blessed man, a few days after doing so, we followed him on his way to the church. In the way, a poor man, half-naked in these winter-months, met him, and begged that some clothing might be given him. Then Martin, calling for the chief-deacon, gave orders that the shivering creature should be clothed without delay. After that, entering a private apartment, and sitting down by himself, as his custom was—for he secured for himself this retirement even in the church, liberty being p. 38 granted to the clerics, since indeed the presbyters were seated in another apartment, either spending their time in mutual 110 courtesies, or occupied in listening to affairs of business. But Martin kept himself in his own seclusion up to the hour at which custom required that the sacred rites should be dispensed to the people. And I will not pass by this point that, when sitting in his retirement, he never used a chair; and, as to the church, no one ever saw him sitting there, as I recently saw a certain man (God is my witness), not without a feeling of shame at the spectacle, seated on a lofty throne, yea, in its elevation, a kind of royal tribunal; but Martin might be seen sitting on a rude little stool, such as those in use by the lowest of servants, which we Gallic country-people call tripets111 and which you men of learning, or those at least who are from Greece, call tripods. Well, that poor man who had been chanced upon, as the chief-deacon delayed to give him the garment, rushed into this private apartment of the blessed man, complaining that he had not been attended to by the cleric, and bitterly mourning over the cold he suffered. No delay took place: the holy man, while the other did not observe, secretly drew off his tunic which was below his outer 112 garment, and clothing the poor man with this, told him to go on his way. Then, a little after, the chief-deacon coming in informs him, according to custom, that the people were waiting in the church, and that it was incumbent on him to proceed to the performance of the sacred rites. Martin said to him in reply that it was necessary that the poor man—referring to himself—should be clothed, and that he could not possibly proceed to the church, unless the poor man received a garment. But the deacon, not understanding the true state of the case—that Martin, while outwardly clad with a cloak, was not seen by him to be naked underneath, at last begins to complain that the poor man does not make his appearance. ‘Let the garment which has been got ready,’ said Martin, ‘be brought to me; there will not be wanting the poor man requiring to be clothed.’ Then, at length, the cleric, constrained by necessity, and now in not the sweetest temper, hurriedly procures a rough 113 garment out of the nearest shop, short and shaggy, and costing only five pieces of silver, and lays it, in wrath at the feet of Martin. ‘See,’ cries he, ‘there is the garment, but the poor man is not here.’ Martin, nothing moved, bids him go to the door for a little, thus obtaining secrecy, while, in his nakedness, he clothes himself with the garment, striving with all his might to keep secret what he had done. But when do such things remain concealed in the case of the saints desiring that they should be so? Whether they will or not, all are brought to light.



“salutationibus vacantes”: this is, in the original, a very confused and obscure sentence.


Halm edits “tripeccias,” which may have been the local patois for “tripetias” (ter-pes), corresponding to the Greek τρίπους, and meaning “a three legged stool.”


“Amphibalum”: a late Latin word corresponding to the more classical toga.


“bigerricam vestem.”

Next: Chapter II.