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Martin of Braga, St.


Distinguished missionary archbishop and writer; b. Pannonia, c. 515; d. Braga (ancient Bracara), c. 579. After a long pilgrimage to Palestine, where he learned Greek, Martin acquired good training in theology and entered the monastic life. He decided to go to the extreme West, to Gallaecia (modern Galicia and northern Portugal). In 550, he founded and was first abbot of a monastery at Dumio, not far from Bracara, the capital of the Suevian kings. In 557, he was elected first bishop of Dumio. He presided over the second synod of Bracara in 572, and, at the death of the metropolitan Lucretius, he became archbishop of that city. His life ambition, the conversion of the Suevian kings and people from Arianism to Catholicism, was crowned with success, and the poet Venantius fortunatus could hail him justly as "the apostle of Gallaecia."

In spite of his active life as a zealous pastor, his extant writings reflect a remarkable breadth of knowledge and a high level of culture for his age. His Aegyptiorum Patrum sententiae, dealing with the lives of the Desert Fathers, is a translation from the Greek made for the edification of his monks. His Formula vitae honestae, addressed to King Miro, contains a series of precepts and expositions connected with the four cardinal virtues. It is based in large part, apparently, on the lost De officiis of Seneca. His De ira, as the title indicates, is likewise based on Seneca. On the other hand, his Pro repellenda iactantia, De superbia, and, especially, Exhortatio humilitatis, owe much to John cassian's monastic Instituta as well as to Seneca.

His pastoral instruction, De correctione rusticorum, written deliberately in a plainer and more familiar Latin style, is of special interest because it furnishes so much information on the old Roman superstitions and practices that still persisted in Spain. For its content, he drew material from sermons of St. caesarius of arles dealing with the same theme. The canonical collection called the Capitula Martini contains some elements at least that belong to him. He also wrote a work on Baptism, Epistola ad Bonifacium episcopum de trina mersione. Finally, he tried his hand at metrical composition. Of the few verses extant, the most interesting are the six which he composed for his own epitaph. Collections of his sermons and letters are lost.

Feast: March 20.

Bibliography: Opera omnia, ed. c. w. barlow (Papers and Monographs of the American Academy in Rome 12; New Haven 1950). o. bardenhewer, Geschichte der altkirchlichen Literatur (Freiburg 191332) 5:379388. É. amann, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique. ed. a. vacant et al., (Paris 190350) 10.1:203207. j. madoz, "Martín de Braga," Estudios Eclesiásticos 25 (1951) 219242. c. p. caspari, Martin von Bracaras Schrifs De correctione rusticorum (Christiania 1883), still important for its introduction. s. mckenna, Paganism and Pagan Survivals in Spain Up to the Fall of the Visigothic Kingdom (Washington 1938). h. haselbach, Sénèque des IIII vertus: la Formula honestae vitae de Martin de Braga (pseudo-Sénèque), tr. j. courtecuisse (Bern 1975), critical ed.

[m. r. p. mcguire]

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