Sainted Martin the Confessor, Pope of Rome,
Commemorated on April 14/27
Sainted Martin the Confessor, Pope of Rome, was a native of the Tuscany region of Italy. He received a fine education and entered into the clergy of the Roman Church. After the death of Pope Theodore I (642-649), presbyter Martin was chosen to the throne.
At this time the peace of the Church was disturbed by the Monothelite heresy, which had become widespread.
The endless disputes of the Monothelites with the Orthodox took place in all levels of the population. Even the emperor Constans (641-668) and the Constantinople Patriarch Paul II (641-654) were adherents of the Monothelite heresy. The emperor Constans published the heretical “Pattern of Faith” (Tupos), obligatory for all the population. In it was forbidden all further disputes.
The heretical “Pattern of Faith” was received at Rome in the year 649. Holy Pope Martin, a firm supporter of Orthodoxy, convened at Rome the local (Lateran) Council, which condemned the Monothelite heresy. At the same time Saint Martin sent a letter to the Constantinople Patriarch Paul with an exhortation to return to the Orthodox confession. The enraged emperor ordered the military commander Olympios to bring Saint Martin to trial. But Olympios, being at Rome, feared the clergy and the people who had descended upon the Council, and he dispatched a soldier to secretly murder the holy Pope. When the assassin approached Saint Martin, he was unexpectedly blinded. The terrified Olympios hastily journeyed to Sicily and was soon killed in battle.
In 654 the emperor with his former aim sent to Rome another military commander, Theodore, who accused Saint Martin of the serious charges of being in secret correspondence with the enemies of the empire – the Saracens, and of blaspheming the MostHoly Mother of God, and of uncanonically entering upon the papal throne. Despite the presenting by Roman clergy and laity of proof of full innocence of the holy Pope, the military commander Theodore with a detachment of soldiers seized hold of Saint Martin by night and took him to one of the Cycladian islands, – Naxos, in the Aegean Sea. Saint Martin spent an entire year on this almost unpopulated island, suffering deprivation and abuse from the guards. Then they sent the exhausted confessor for trial to Constantinople.
They brought the sick elder on a stretcher, but the judges callously ordered him to raise himself up and give answer standing. Again there came an interrogation, and soldiers propped up the saint weakened by illness. At the trial false-witnesses came forward, slandering the saint and imputing treasonous relations with the Saracens. The biased judges did not even bother to hear the defence of the saint. In profound grief he said: “To the Lord is known, what great kindliness ye would show me, if quickly ye would deliver me over to death”.
After suchlike trial they brought forth the saint in tattered garb to the jeering of a crowd, which they forced to shout: “Anathema to Pope Martin!” But those who knew the holy Pope was suffering innocently, withdrew in tears. Finally the sakellarios (shield‑bearer), sent by the emperor, approached the military commander and declared the sentence – to deprive the Pope of his dignity and deliver him to death by execution. They put the half-naked saint into chains and dragged him to prison, where they locked him up with thieves. These were more merciful to the saint than the heretics.
Amidst this the emperor went to the dying Patriarch of Constantinople Paul and told him about the trial over Saint Martin. That one turned away from the emperor and said: “Woe is me! Yet another deed towards my judgement”, – and he besought that the tortures of Saint Martin be stopped. The emperor again sent a notary and other persons to the saint in prison for continued interrogation. The saint answered them: “If even they smash me up, I wilt not have relations with the Constantinople Church while it dwelleth in bad-faith”. The torturers were astonished at the boldness of the confessor and they commuted his death by execution with exile in the faraway Tauridian Chersonesus.
There also the saint died, exhausted by sickness, want, hunger and deprivations (+ 16 September 655). He was buried outside the city in the Blakhernae church in the name of the MostHoly Mother of God.
The Monothelite heresy was condemned at the VI OEcumenical Council in the year 680. The relics of the holy confessor Pope Martin were transferred to Constantinople, and thence to Rome.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.