23. Buchedd Martin
edited by Jenny Day
St Martin was an abbot and bishop who lived in the fourth century and later became one of the patron saints of France. He was born in Sabaria in Pannonia (Szombathely in Hungary, today), either c.315 (perhaps 316–17) or c.336–7 (see ODCC 1050; Stancliffe 1983: 119–33; SSVM 14–19). His parents were pagans and his father was a soldier and tribune in the Roman army. Though he wished to serve God as a hermit, Martin was compelled to become a soldier. A particularly well-known incident in his life is said to have occurred when he was approaching the city of Amiens one day, and he used his sword to divide his cloak so that he might give half of it to a poor man.
Martin left the army in the time of Julian Caesar, perhaps in the year 356 or 357. He spent some time with St Hilary in Poitiers, and was elected bishop of Tours c.371. He was an active missionary, spreading Christianity in Gaul, and was well known as a healer and exorcist. Having earlier founded monasteries or hermitages in Milan, and at Ligugé near Poitiers, after becoming bishop he founded the monastery of Marmoutier, near Tours. Martin’s ascetic way of life inspired many, including Sulpicius Severus (c.360–?c.420/430), the author of his Life (Vita Sancti Martini) and of further letters and dialogues concerning him. (See ODCC 1567–8; SSVM 1–9, 23.)
Martin died in November 397, and according to Gregory of Tours there was a quarrel between the men of Poitiers and Tours over who had the best claim to his body (cf. BMartin §§48–9). It was in Tours that he was buried, and his tomb became an important destination for pilgrims. Martin’s main feast-day is celebrated on 11 November, the date of his funeral, and he has another feast-day on 4 July, the date on which he was consecrated bishop (see Stancliffe 1983: 117–18; Van Dam 1993: 18–19). The July feast-day also commemorates the translation of his remains to a new shrine in the church erected in the time of Perpetuus (bishop of Tours, c.460–c.490) (see BMartin §§53–5).
A church had been built earlier above Martin’s tomb by Brice, his successor as bishop of Tours, but his cult received renewed impetus when Perpetuus built his magnificent new church. It is likely, too, that it was at Perpetuus’s instigation that Paulinus of Périgueux composed a metrical version of the Life of Martin, based on the writings of Sulpicius Severus and on a book of Martin’s miracles which Perpetuus had compiled himself. A century or so later, Gregory of Tours (c.539–94) assumed an active role in promoting Martin’s cult; he produced texts of his own about the saint and his miracles, and his friend Venantius Fortunatus composed a new metrical version of Sulpicius’s writings about Martin. Though some scholars have questioned Gregory’s depiction of Martin’s posthumous role as an important figure in the history of Gaul, with close links to the early Merovingian kings, it seems clear that the later Merovingian dynasty supported his cult and churches, and it is known that an important relic, ‘the cloak of St Martin’, was in their possession by the end of the seventh century. (For the early history of Martin’s cult, see Farmer 1991: chapter 1; Van Dam 1993: 13–28; McKinley 2006.)
Another saint, Dionysius or Denis of Paris, became the main patron saint of the Carolingian kings and later the Capetians, but Martin too continued to be a prominent saint. The Carolingian kings not only swore oaths on his cloak, as the Merovingians had done, but also carried it into battle; and according to a sermon by Bishop Radbod of Utrecht it was through Martin’s power that Tours was saved from the Vikings in 903. By the end of the eleventh century Martin’s cult had come under the control of the canons of Saint-Martin, Tours (the church where his body resided) and the monks of his abbey of Marmoutier, near the city, and both locations were important centres of pilgrimage. (See Farmer 1991.)
A number of new works about Martin were composed for various purposes in these centres (Farmer 1991), and he was the subject of sermons by two prominent monastic leaders, Odo of Cluny (c.879–942) and Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153) (Reames 1981: 141–6). Sulpicius Severus’s writings about Martin continued to circulate, often being transmitted together with writings by Gregory of Tours and other material concerning the saint, and Martin’s story is also to be found in collections of saints’ Lives such as the ‘Cotton-Corpus legendary’ (Babut 1912: 300; Zettel 1982; Love 1996: xvii; SSVM 81–3). In the Legenda Aurea, a very popular collection of saints’ Lives complied by Jacobus de Voragine in the thirteenth century, there is a version of Martin’s Life which focusses mainly on his miracles, and he was the subject of four sermons by the same author (LA 678–87; Reames 1981).
During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries Martin regained something of his status as patron saint of the kings of France, with the last Capetian king, Charles IV, gaining Papal consent to translate his head to a new gold reliquary in 1323. It was believed that Martin helped to deliver Tours from the Black Prince in 1356, and after 1444 the royal court came to reside there. (See Farmer 1991: 299–301.) However, in 1562 the Huguenots came to Tours and destroyed Martin’s tomb, burning his relics; some fragments were salvaged and the shrine re-established, but it was destroyed again during the French Revolution (Pernoud 2006: 173; Nelson 2015). Martin’s tomb was rediscovered in 1880 and a new church was built on the site and consecrated on 4 July 1925 (Pernoud 2006: 173–4). It is still a centre of pilgrimage, and Martin himself continues to be a well-known and important saint in France, Europe and beyond (ibid. 174–5; Donaldson 1980: 152–4).
St Martin’s early cult in Britain and Ireland
It is uncertain which country Venantius Fortunatus had in mind when he included Britannus amongst the various peoples who loved Martin (Leo 1881: 239 Quem Hispanus, Maurus, Persa, Britannus amat; Grosjean 1937: 300), since the word can mean either ‘Briton’ or ‘Breton’ (DMLBS, s.v.). There is similar ambiguity in the case of Gregory of Tours’s story concerning a Brito named Winnoc who came to Tours intending to go on to Jerusalem (Historia Francorum, V.21 (Krusch and Levison 1885a: 218; Thorpe 1974: 287–8)). Ian Wood (2007: 71), however, suggests that the description of him coming de Britanniis could refer to the old Roman provinces of Britain.
There is other evidence that Martin very soon became known in Britain. His friend Victricius, bishop of Rouen, came here for a short period (395–6) to settle a dispute within the British Church, and it is possible that he promoted Martinian monasticism and evangelism at this time (Knight 1981: 55; Birley 1979: 156). Bede mentioned two early churches consecrated to Martin, one in Canterbury and dating from Roman times and the other, the Candida Casa in Whithorn (Dumfries and Galloway), the burial place of St Ninian (Colgrave and Mynors 1969: i.25–6, iii.4). The former consecration may in fact date from the time when Bertha, a Merovingian princess, married King Æthelberht I of Kent (d. 616) (McKinley 2006: 196–7); the latter is more uncertain but may perhaps date from the sixth or seventh century (Wood 2007: 72, 79). No doubt links with the continent would have continued to strengthen Martin’s cult in Britain during this early period (see Wilson 1968: 134–5; Knight 1981; Dark 1994: 55–8; Wood 2007: 71–2; cf. Donaldson 1980: 133–42).
Martin was a popular saint in the Anglo-Saxon Church and concise vernacular versions of his Life were composed, intended for both lay and monastic audiences, which may have been used in church services on the saint’s feast-days or for private devotional reading (Kelly 2003: xxiii–xxvii, xxxi–xlvi). Material concerning him is included in the three earliest surviving collections of Old English homilies or sermons, all dating from the late tenth century, namely the Vercelli Book, the Blickling Homilies and the Catholic Homilies of Ælfric, abbot of Eynsham; and Ælfric also wrote another, longer version of Martin’s life as part of his Lives of Saints (Kelly 2003; Scragg 1992; Gerould 1925; Zettel 1982). Another version of Martin’s Life, this time in Latin, was composed by Alcuin of York (d. 804), a scholar who spent time at the court of Charlemagne and in Tours (Phelan 2014: 8–10).
Martin’s cult was strong in Ireland, where he was well known as a founding father of monasticism (Hughes 1966: 76; Sharpe 1982: 5–6). There was a tradition that St Patrick was the son of a kinswoman of Martin, perhaps his sister or niece, and that he had received the tonsure from him in Tours (Stokes 1887 i, 25, and ii, 432–3, 560–1; Gwynn 1913: cclix). Adomnán (d. 704) referred in his Life of Columba to Martin being named in a customary prayer, perhaps as the first of a number of bishops or saints who would be commemorated (Anderson and Anderson 1961: III.12 (pp. 198–9), and see ibid. 119n223; Sharpe 1995: 366), whilst Jonas of Bobbio noted that another Irish saint, Columbanus (d. 615), had prayed at Martin’s tomb (Vita Columbani, Liber I, §22 (Krusch 1902: 95); and on Columbanus, see further Kenney 1929: 186–9, 203–5: ODCC 383). Furthermore, two Hiberno-Latin hymns relating to Martin survive, and are thought to be of seventh-century date (Wilson 1968: 137; Lapidge 1990).
Sulpicius’s Vita S. Martini, along with two of his letters concerning Martin, was copied into the Book of Armagh around 807 (www.confessio.ie/manuscripts/dublin#1; Fontaine 1967–9: 219); however, similar material must have reached Ireland considerably earlier, because it is acknowledged that the Vita was amongst the texts that influenced the early Irish hagiographers, including Adomnán (see, e.g., Bray 2003: 136; Sharpe 1991: 11; and on the relationship between the Book of Armagh text and the different ‘families’ of Martinian manuscripts, see Babut 1913: cclxvii–cclxxv; Chase 1932; Fontaine 1967–9: 219; SSVM 82). (Further on Martin’s cult in Ireland, see Wilson 1968; Lapidge 1990; Herbert 2002; and the references in Sharpe 1982: 6n13.)
Martin’s cult in Wales
It is likely that Martin’s early cult and influence were most prominent in those areas where Roman influence was strongest, namely the south-east and the borders (cf. Dark 1994: 64; Hughes 1966: 29). The cult could have been strengthened further by links with the continent, Anglo-Saxon England and Ireland (on the latter, see Chadwick 1958: 110–11); through the influence of the Anglo-Normans, especially as they established themselves in south Wales from the late eleventh century onwards (see HW 392–403); and through later links with England and the continent. The long history of such interactions could explain the distribution of dedications to Martin and place-names containing his name, these being located for the most part in the south-west, the south-east and the borders (see Parsons 2019: 27, 33 (map); also Wilson 1968: 136).
The earliest references to Martin in a text from Wales are those in Historia Brittonum, believed to have been written originally in 829/30; here it is stated that Martin and his miracles and powers were well known in the time of the Emperor Maximus and that Martin had spoken with the emperor (Morris 1980: §§26, 29; Dumville 1985: §§14, 18; cf. SSVM §20; BMartin §35). Most of the Welsh-medium texts that mention Martin are translations (see BD xii.13 (‘Brut Dingestow’); Williams 1926: §III (‘Chwedlau Odo’); YCM 175.22 (Appendix to ‘Cronicl Turpin’)). However, the translator of the Life of St David added a new reference to Martin, alongside a number of other international saints. Here he is presented as the patron saint or evangelist of France, his status there corresponding to David’s in Wales (BDe 18.8; cf. BDewi §23).
Martin’s own Life was translated into Welsh in the fifteenth century by Siôn Trefor of Pentrecynfrig. The earliest surving copy is the one made by Gutun Owain in LlGC 3026C, with a colophon dating it to 1488. It is this text that has been edited as part of the project (BMartin). A further, very concise version of Martin’s Life was recorded in the important collection of saints’ Lives in Llst 34 (1580x1600; see the transcription). Both these Lives are discussed further below.
Martin was also known to the Welsh poets. One of the earliest references to him is in a poem by Einion ap Gwalchmai, probably dating from the early decades of the thirteenth century (GMB 27.95); another reference, by an anonymous poet in ‘Englynion y Clywaid’, could be either earlier or later than this (BlBGCC 31.17a–c; and on the date, see ibid. 316; Williams a Parry-Williams 1926: 6–7). The only other reference to Martin in a Welsh poem from before c.1400 is in an awdl by Gruffudd Gryg (GGGr 10.34), but he is mentioned by a number of later poets including Guto’r Glyn, Rhys Nanmor, Huw Cae Llwyd and Tudur Aled (GG.net 92.51–2; Headley 1938: 51.63; SeintiauHCLl1 ll. 31–2; TA LXXI.99–102). The poetic references suggest that Martin was viewed as a powerful saint who could provide healing and protection for the living as well as intercession for the souls of the departed (see further Day 2017).
It is clear that some of the details of Martin’s history were familiar to the poets. There are references to him as a monk and a knight in poems by Gutun Owain and Rhys Nanmor (GO VIII.13–14; Headley 1938: 51.63), and both Huw ap Dafydd and Lewys Môn chose to praise a patron’s generosity by comparing it to Martin’s (GHD 27.53–4; GLM XLIX.57–8). It is striking that the subject of Huw ap Dafydd’s poem was Siôn Trefor of Wiggington, grandson of the Siôn Trefor who translated Martin’s Life into Welsh (see below), and that the poet refers specifically to giving clothing, calling to mind one of the most famous episodes in the saint’s Life (see above and BMartin §5). (There is further discussion of references to Martin in Welsh poetry and prose in Day 2017).
Siôn Trefor and the Life of St Martin
The earliest surviving Welsh version of the Life of St Martin is preserved in the important manuscript known as LlGC 3026C (Mostyn 88). A colophon at the end of the text notes that ‘John Trevor translated this Life from the Latin into Welsh and Gutun Owain wrote it in the year of our Lord 1488 in the time of Henry the Seventh, namely the third year after the coronation of the same Henry.’ The identity of this John Trevor has been the subject of some debate, but he can now be identified with reasonable certainty as Siôn Trefor of Pentrecynfrig, son of Edward ap Dafydd of Bryncunallt, near Chirk (Owen 2003: 351, and for the earlier discussions, see the references ibid. 376n22; see further Ann Parry Owen’s patron note in GG.net s.n. Edward ap Dafydd of Bryncunallt).
Siôn Trefor became head of the household at Bryncunallt when his older brother, Robert Trefor, died in 1452, but by the 1480s it seems that his main home was at Pentrecynfrig, within the parish of Llanfarthin or St Martin’s about 2km south of Chirk (see Ann Parry Owen’s note on Edward ap Dafydd and his family in GG.net). According to an elegy composed for him by Gutun Owain, Siôn Trefor died on Friday, 6 December 1493 (GO XXXVI.22, 25–30). In this poem (l. 6) Gutun praises his learning, calling him an athro mawr ‘great teacher’, and similarly, in an elegy sung by Guto’r Glyn for Siôn’s father, Edward ap Dafydd, Siôn is said to have inherited his scholarly interests: I Siôn y rhoed y synnwyr / A’r chwedlau o’r llyfrau’n llwyr ‘to Siôn was bestowed entirely the meaning / as well as the legends from the books’ (GG.net 104.43–4). Ann Parry Owen suggests (ibid.n.) that these lines could refer specifically to Siôn Trefor’s skill as a translator, that is, his ability ‘to understand the “meaning” of books, and thus translate them into his own language’.
The name of the parish and village of Llanfarthin reflect the dedication of the local church to St Martin (on the history of the parish, see Eyton 1860: 361–4; Hurdsman 2003: 17–18). It is likely, then, that Siôn Trefor regarded Martin as his patron saint. This might also be true of the copyist of the Life, Gutun Owain, who owned land in the same parish, at Ifton, and was probably buried at Llanfarthin (Williams 1997: 240; and for his burial place, see the record in the manuscript Wrexham 1 or LlGC 872D (1590–2) quoted in RWM ii, 360). Furthermore, it appears that LlGC 3026C was produced for a third local man, Siôn Edward of Gwernosbynt, Chirk, a relative of Siôn Trefor who was also a scholar (RepWM s.n. Edward(s), John, I; Owen 2003: 351–2). It is likely, though, that the Welsh Life of Martin itself was not created solely for the benefit of the educated gentry. A degree of simplification and explanation is apparent in the text, suggesting that it may have been intended for a wider audience; it may be that extracts from the Life were read aloud in the parish church on the saint’s feast-day(s) (see the next section, and cf. Williams 1941–4: 150; BDe xxxiii).
It seems Siôn Trefor’s descendants continued to honour Martin as their patron saint in the decades after the Life was written, judging by references in two poems addressed to his grandson, Siôn Trefor of Wiggington. Morys ap Hywel ap Tudur referred to the saint’s miraculous power and protection (ei wyrth a’i nawdd) as encompassing the patron and his wife (Williams 1929–31a: 43), and Huw ap Dafydd praised the hospitality that this same Siôn was accustomed to provide on St Martin’s feast-day: Ym mlaen y ford aml iawn fydd / Ŵyl Marthin im, win a medd ‘At the high end of the table wine and mead / will be very abundant for me on the feast-day of St Martin’ (GHD 27.51–2). Then follow the lines, mentioned above, which recall Martin’s act of charity at Amiens, Mur a thangadwyn, Marthin godiad, / ’Mryd ei ddull am roi dy ddillad ‘Defender and supporter, of Martin’s nurture, / with a resolve to emulate him in giving your clothing’ (ibid. ll. 53–4; compare BMartin §5; SSVM §3). It is possible that these lines were inspired by the poet’s knowledge of the Welsh Life of Martin, translated by his patron’s grandfather; however, it should be noted that that particular episode is mentioned in various texts and was often the subject of visual depictions (see further Day 2017: 14–15).
The text of the first Welsh Life
Siôn Trefor’s version of the Life of St Martin (BMartin) is a good, well-written translation which, so far as may be judged, seems to have been reproduced quite faithfully by Gutun Owain when he wrote the copy in LlGC 3026C (on the later copies, see Manuscripts). Though Gutun did make a number of minor errors, especially when moving from the end of one line in the manuscript to the beginning of the next (see n. 8 (textual), n. 9 (textual)), there is only one instance where the text requires significant emendation in order to provide a sensible reading (see n. 14 (textual)). There are also two instances where it appears Gutun misunderstood the sentence-structure of the Life (see n. 11, n. 40), and it is likely that he was responsible for some of the confusion with proper names that is apparent in his text (see in particular n. 24 (textual) (on Treueris), n. 29 (textual) (Titradius), n. 36 (esgob Putanesis), n. 101 (Arkorivs), n. 108 (Maxenianus), n. 153 (Pataniaid), n. 175 (Perpettuwus)). As is the case with some other texts from this period, such as the ‘paraphrase’ of the Welsh Life of St David in Pen 27ii (see BDewi: Introduction), it sometimes appears that words are spelt according to the way they were spoken rather than following standard spelling conventions: for example, [p]ethe in §36 (contrast the standard ending -av (-au) of the same word in §§4, 34, 37); dyddie in §54; kythrel (for cythraul) in §§11, 20, 25–6, 36–9, 45, 50, 52; ymgnvllynt, a form of the verb ymgynnull, in §17; and the third person plural preterite ending -on of the verb [l]lyngkon in Martin’s speech in §43 (contrast, e.g., §38 trevliasant; §48 dywedasant). See further n. 21 (textual) (on kan [n]a allai and similar instances), n. 56 (Browdwr), n. 76 (oeddyn), n. 105 (drostvn), n. 165 (clwai). Compare also the instances of contraction of gwedy and a third person singular possessive pronoun (see n. 67), and two forms of the verb cael that may reflect the influence of the spoken language, namely cent, probably a third person plural imperfect form (§30 wynt a gent ev hiechyd; n. 100), and cas, a third person singular preterite form (§18 na chas atteb; compare kavas, which is noted in GMW 149 and occurs in the Life in §§12, 24, 26, 39).
Siôn Trefor’s version of the Life derives for the most part from the Vita S. Martini of Sulpicius Severus, with additional material drawn from other works by Sulpicius and by Gregory of Tours (see BSM v, and below). The likelihood is that these texts had already been brought together in his Latin source, since these and other materials concerning Martin were often transmitted together (Jones 1936: 109; and see Babut 1912: 300; Love 1996: xiii; SSVM 82). When comparing the Welsh Life with its Latin sources, the editions cited in this study are as follows: for Vita S. Martini, Philip Burton’s recent volume (SSVM) (sometimes reference is also made to earlier editions by Jacques Fontaine (1967–9) and Carolus Halm (1866)); for Sulpicius’s letters (Epistulae), Jacques Fontaine’s edition of 1967–9; and for his dialogues (Dialogi), Carolus Halm’s 1866 edition. English renderings of passages from the Latin texts are normally quoted from Burton’s translation of the Vita (op. cit.) and Alexander Roberts’s (1894) translation of the Epistulae and the Dialogi. Reference was also made to Roberts’s translation of the Vita (ibid.) and to Fontaine’s French translation of the Vita and the Epistulae (op. cit.). In the case of the episodes at the end of the Welsh Life which derive from the works of Gregory of Tours, Latin extracts and English translations are drawn from the editions by Krusch and Levison (1885a) and (1885b) of Historia Francorum and Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi, and the translations by Lewis Thorpe (1974) and Raymond Van Dam (1993: 199–303).
A few instances were noted where the Welsh Life disagrees markedly with the edited Latin text of the above editions but is similar to variant readings noted by Fontaine (1967–9) or Halm (1866); see n. 25, n. 60, n. 94, n. 143. Further consideration of these and other variant readings in the Latin texts, in relation to the Welsh Life, would be of great interest and would doubtless shed further light upon the nature of the source used by Siôn Trefor. (On the Latin manuscripts, see Halm 1866: viii–xi, 107; Chase 1932: 61–4; Fontaine 1967–9: 215–22; SSVM 81–3.)
The first part of the Welsh Life is largely derived from Vita S. Martini (SSVM §§2–42; BMartin §§1–28, 30–42) and relates the story of Martin’s life from his childhood to the time when Sulpicius visited him in 393 or 394 (Stancliffe 1983: 71), with detailed accounts of Martin’s miracles and virtues. The story of an additional miracle, drawn from one of Sulpicius’s dialogues, is included in the midst of the material from the Vita (Halm 1866: 185 (Dialogi I (II), §4); BMartin §29). Martin was still alive when the Vita was completed, in 396, but an account of his death the following year is included in one of Sulpicius’s letters, and this provided the source for the next part of the Welsh Life (Fontaine 1967–9: 336–45 (Epistulae III.6–20); BMartin §§43–6). Then follow accounts by Gregory of Tours concerning the disagreement between the men of Poitiers and Tours over who had best claim to the saint’s mortal remains (Historia Francorum, I.48 (Krusch and Levison 1885a: 32–3; Thorpe 1974: 97–9); BMartin §§47–9), and miracles relating to his death, his funeral and the translation of his relics (Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi, I.4–6 (Krusch and Levison 1885b: 140–2; Van Dam 1993: 206–9); BMartin §§50–6).
The Welsh Life does not contain the introductory ‘Letter to Desiderius’ nor the first chapter of the Vita S. Martini which itself takes the form of a preface, but does provide a very brief introduction of its own, Marthin Sant oedd esgob a chonffesor i Grist (‘Saint Martin was a bishop and confessor of Christ’). A similar statement is not present in the corresponding context in the Vita, but it is possible that this phrase was drawn in part from one of the various versions of the title of that text. Fontaine (1967–9: 250) uses for his edited text the title Vita Sancti Martini Episcopi ‘The Life of St Martin, Bishop’ but notes a number of variants including some that refer to the saint as both bishop and confessor (confessoris), as in the opening phrase of the Welsh Life.
The Welsh text then follows the Vita in describing Martin’s background and childhood (§1), his early religious conversion and desire to become a hermit (§2), and the compulsion placed upon him to become a [m]archoc vrddol ‘ordained knight’ when he was fifteen (§3). There is an account of his goodness and humility (§4), and of the occasion when he gave half his cloak to a poor man near Amiens (§5) and Christ appeared to him afterwards in a dream, wearing this garment (§6). It is noted that he was baptized at the age of twenty-two, [d]wyvlwydd ar hugain (contrast SSVM §3(5) duodeviginti ‘eighteen’, and see n. 25), and that he continued to bear the name of knight for almost two years afterwards (§7). Next there is an account (§8) of how he obtained his release from the army, at the time when Julian Caesar had gathered a great host in the city of Worms to fight against [c]enedlaethav dieithr ‘foreign nations’ (SSVM §4(1) barbaris), and accounts of the time he spent with St Hilary, bishop of Poitiers (§9), of his journey home to visit his parents, and his encounters along the way with thieves and with the Devil (§§10–11). There follows a description of his opposition to Arianism (see n. 44) and his journey to Italy, with mention of the [m]ynachloc he founded in Milan (§12; the Welsh word generally means ‘monastery’ but this may in fact have been a hermitage; see n. 49). Then follow accounts of his stay on the Island of Galinaria (§13), his return to St Hilary, his founding of another mynachloc near Poitiers, and two miracles whereby dead men were restored to life (§§14–15).
There follows the story of Martin’s popular election as bishop of Tours, against the wishes of some bishops, and of the founding of what would become his most prominent monastery at Marmoutier (§§16–17). Accounts of a number of miracles are given, some relating to Martin’s missionary activities and the opposition he faced (§§18–23), others concerning healing (§§24–5, 28–34), and others illustrating his ability to see devils and his power over them (§§26–7, 36–9). His meeting with the Emperor Magnus Maximus (§35) is described, and there is an account of Sulpicius’s visit to the saint, with further praise of his virtues (§§40–2). The Life concludes with episodes drawn from the works of Gregory of Tours, describing Martin’s death (§§43–5), his funeral (§46), the contention over his remains (§§47–9), and miracles relating to his death (§50), his funeral (§§51–2) and the translation of his remains (§§53–6).
The Welsh Life, then, gives a fairly detailed account of the saint’s life and virtues. It appears that Siôn Trefor did his best to do justice to his source material, and that, where he made deliberate changes, his main intention was to summarize or to make his text easier to understand and more familiar to a contemporary audience. (It must be noted, however, that it is possible that some of the apparent changes in the Welsh Life, as compared with the available Latin texts, were in fact present in the particular Latin source used by Siôn Trefor.)
A modest degree of summarizing is a common feature of the text; for example, the accounts of the two resurrection miracles performed by Martin before his election as bishop of Tours are a little shorter in the Welsh Life than in the Vita (SSVM §§7–8; BMartin §§14–15), as is the episode in which Martin disproves a local superstition concerning the burial-place of supposed martyrs (SSVM §11; BMartin §18). Some material apparently considered less interesting or less relevant to the contemporary audience is omitted entirely, including the ‘Letter to Desiderius’, the opening introductory chapter (see above), and the role of a bishop named Defensor in opposing Martin’s election as bishop of Tours (SSVM §9(4–7); contrast BMartin §16). A further, understandable omission is that of a passage in which Sulpicius laments the spread of false prophets and concludes that ‘the coming of the Antichrist is at hand’ (SSVM §24(1–3)). It is possible, too, that a reference to camel-hair garments was omitted from the description of Marmoutier abbey because it seemed too outlandish or implausible (see n. 80).
Sometimes the Welsh Life omits proper nouns whilst retaining the episode in which they occur: the man named as Lupicinus in Sulpicius’s account of one of Martin’s healing miracles becomes simply ‘a nobleman’ (gwr bonheddic); the city of Aquileia where Magnus Maximus was killed becomes y dinas ‘the city’; and where Gregory of Tours describes the men of Tours bringing the saint’s mortal remains along the rivers Vienne and Loire, in the Welsh Life they are brought ‘along the water’, ar hyd y dwr (BMartin §§15, 35; 49; SSVM §§8(1), 20(9); Krusch and Levison 1885a: 33 (I.48), ll. 11–12). By contrast, the Welsh text successfully modernizes the Carnotum oppidum of Sulpicius’s Dialogi to dinas Siartris (Chartres) (see n. 98), and there are anachronistic references to France and Frenchmen, as opposed to Gaul and Gauls, which were probably also intended to make the text more intelligible and relevant to its audience (BMartin §§8, 19; SSVM §4(1) intra Gallias, §12(2) Gallorum). It is interesting, too, that when Homer is mentioned, the Welsh Life includes a brief explanation of who he was, a detail not included in the corresponding passage in Sulpicius’s Vita (BMartin §41; SSVM §26(3)).
Another characteristic of the Welsh Life is a tendency to avoid reproducing the voice of the original author. As well as the original introduction to the Vita and its first chapter, a number of Sulpicius’s other rhetorical passages and comments are omitted, and a third person verb rather than a first person verb is used to introduce the story of the miracle performed by Martin on the way to Chartres (BMartin §29 Val yr oedd Varthin y[n] myned i ddinas Siartris ‘As Martin was going to the city of Chartres’; Halm 1866: 185 (Dialogi I (II), §4) fuerat causa nescio qua Carnotum oppidum petebamus (Roberts 1894: 40 ‘For some reason, I know not what, we were on our way to the town of the Carnutes’)). Even so, and though Sulpicius is not named anywhere in the Welsh text, he is not excluded from the story entirely. The account of his visit to Martin is told in the first person in the Welsh Life as it is in the Latin (SSVM §25; BMartin §40), perhaps because, in this case, Siôn Trefor felt that the author’s participation in the narrative was too important to be ignored. Also retained are a number of the rhetorical comments which help to guide the reader through the text (BMartin §§18, 34, 37; the last two are in red ink in the manuscript), and some which relate to the events of the story or the virtues of the saint and insist that the account given is a true one (§§17, 39, 40, 42, 45; and cf. §56, translating the voice of Gregory of Tours).
Though Siôn Trefor was clearly a skilled and conscientious translator his text does contain some translation errors, some involving proper nouns. The Vita’s intra Italiam Ticini ‘within Italy, in Pavia’ is translated yn yr Eidal Tisin, with yr Eidal Tisin apparently being understood as a single place-name (SSVM §2(1); BMartin §1), whilst Treveris, the name of a city (Trier), has become a girl’s name instead (SSVM §16(2); BMartin §24). A new guest at Emperor Maximus’s feast was created through the misinterpretation of praefectus, the name of an office, as a personal name, Preffectus (SSVM §20(4); BMartin §35), and some other names have become corrupt in form; for example, there are two different spellings, Arkorivs and Abirius, of the name Arborius (§31), and of the four references to the proconsul Tetradius, only in the final instance is his name spelt correctly (§25 Tretadius, Titradius (twice), Tetradius). As noted above, however, it may be that the copyist Gutun Owain, rather than Siôn Trefor himself, was responsible for these corrupt forms, with unfamiliar proper names naturally being more susceptible to copying errors than other, more common words (cf. BDewi: Introduction).
It seems overzealous summarizing may have been to blame for a rather perplexing description of Martin building his cell out of wood and his monks constructing chambers for themselves ‘in the same hill’ (see n. 63), whilst misinterpretation of the Latin source appears to have led to faulty Welsh syntax in a description of Martin’s virtues (see n. 127). A specific kind of translation error apparent in several passages is the translation of a plural noun with a singular one, or vice versa (see n. 73). Sometimes there is no significant effect on the episode related, but when Siôn Trefor came to the eipsode where Martin exposes the falsehood of a local superstition concerning the burial of ‘martyrs’ near his monastery (SSVM §11; BMartin §18), it may be that his mistranslation of plural episcopis with singular esgob led him to intepret the modifying adjective, superioribus, with the meaning ‘higher, senior’ (vchaf) rather than ‘previous’ (both senses are possible for the Latin adjective, but the latter was certainly the one intended). In addition, this episode is somewhat abbreviated in the Welsh text, and the combined result is that the reader gains the impression that this ‘higher bishop’ had, like the local populace, been deceived by the superstition concerning the martyrs and that Martin, a recently consecrated bishop, is challenging his authority by proving that it is false. This twist in the story is quite different from what Sulpicius intended. Even so, Siôn Trefor’s version of events is not out of keeping with the general flow of the story, nor with Martin’s character: compare, for example, the saint’s courage when dealing with the emperors, and the description of his popular election as bishop of Tours in spite of the opposition of some bishops (SSVM §§4, 9, 20; BMartin §§8, 16, 36).
In another passage, Siôn Trefor gravely misrepresents one of Martin’s contemporaries, and a friend of Sulpicius, when he describes Paulinus of Nola as ‘a man who practised magic’ (BMartin §32 gwr oedd yn ymarver o gyfarwyddion). There is no mention of anything relating to magic or sorcery in the Latin Life, and it appears that this phrase originated in the translator’s confusion between magnus ‘great’ and magus ‘magician’, perhaps as a result of an error or unclear reading in his source text (see n. 104). As in the case of the episode concerning the ‘martyrs’, the mistake is not noticeable unless the Welsh text is read alongside the Latin. Taken on its own terms, the Welsh text seems to imply, reasonably enough, that a sorceror named Paulinus gave up his magical arts under Martin’s influence, having been healed by him, and thereafter became ‘a good example to others’ (BMartin §32 siampl dda i eraill). However, the Welsh text’s portrayal of Paulinus’s early interests is quite contrary to what is known concerning Paulinus of Nola.
Not every instance of divergence between Siôn Trefor’s Life and the Vita has been noted, since a detailed comparison of Latin and Welsh readings was beyond the scope of this study. It is clear, nonetheless, that Siôn Trefor showed great respect towards Sulpicius’s portrayal of Martin as a brave man who was also holy, self-denying and humble, as a missionary, abbot and bishop, as one through whom God performed many miracles, as one who could see through any diabolical deceit, and as a model for how to live and die as a Christian. In this, Siôn Trefor differed from some earlier writers who chose to emphasize particular aspects of Martin’s life or nature, such as his authority as a bishop, in the case of Gregory of Tours and Ælfric of Eynsham, or his miracles, as in the case of Jacobus de Voragine (see Reames 1981; Olsen 2004).
The shorter Life
The version of Martin’s Life of which the earliest copy is preserved in Llst 34 (1580x1600) is extremely concise and contains the following: an introductory sentence (different from Siôn Trefor’s); the story of Martin healing a man suffering from leprosy when he himself was a young boy, yn fab ieuanc (contrast BMartin §28 and SSVM §18, in which an account of a similar miracle is included amongst those performed by the saint much later in his life); the story of his being forced to become a soldier when he was twelve years old (contrast BMartin §3 [p]ymthengmlwydd ‘fifteen years’, which corresponds to the Latin Life’s annorum quindecim (SSVM §2(5)); the story of his gift of half his cloak to the poor man and his subsequent vision, with Christ’s words being given in the original Latin (cf. SSVM §3(3); this Latin quotation is not included in BMartin §6); a short reference to his becoming a monk in Poitou; his election as bishop of Tours; and his death.
The writer of manuscript Llst 34 was Roger Morris of Coed-y-talwrn, Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd, and it is interesting to note that he copied Siôn Trefor’s version of the Life into manuscript CM 530 around the same time (see Manuscripts). Even so, it does not appear that the one is drawn from the other. Some fundamental differences between the two texts have been noted above, and though there is one interesting similarity between them, namely their shared reference to the saint’s cloak being worn over his armaments, this may not be significant (see n. 21). Grosjean (1937: 346) suggested that the shorter Welsh Life derives from a Latin sermon, and if so, it can be regarded as independent evidence of the importance of Martin’s cult in the north-east of Wales (cf. the poetic references discussed above and in Day 2017). It is worth noting that the six earliest manuscripts containing one or other version of Martin’s Life all derive from that region (see Manuscripts).