at prayer

St. Martial
St Martial

Feast Day 30 June. Patron Saint of Marratxí
IIIrd century AD

All that is known of him is that he was a third century Bishop of Limoges, one of the seven bishops sent from Rome. He appears to have been accompanied by two priests, Alpinianus and Austriclinienus. He converted the inhabitants to Christianity and an abbey and important library flourished around his tomb there.

However, the legend grew that St Martial was one of the seventy-two Disciples of Christ and performed such miracles as raising a dead man to life by touching him with a rod given to him by St Peter. In addition, it is said that he was present at the raising of Lazarus, at the Last Supper and at other key events in the New Testament.

This legend was further embroidered by Adémar of Chabannes, a monk at the monastery in Limoges, who wrote a Life of Martial, supposedly written by Martial’s successor, Bishop Aurelian. He also composed an apostolic mass, now in the Paris Bibliotheque Nacionale. This is the earliest autograph western music to survive. The mass was first sung on 3 August 1029 but interrupted by a travelling monk denouncing the Life as a complete fabrication.

Ademar’s answer was to add forgery after forgery, inventing a Council of 1031 that confirmed the 'apostolic' status of Martial, even a forged papal letter. By now his reputation was in shreds. His ploy was to present the library with all his work, including Easter Tables 1065-1596, which would not be needed for another generation. In the back, he placed the papal letter. Posthumously, he succeeded. The forgeries were to be accepted until Louis Saltet unravelled the strands in the 1920s, although mainstream Catholics did not fully accept his findings until the 1990s.