Martin I
Bishop of Rome
Statue of Martin I in Santa Maria della Consolazione church, Todi, Italy
ChurchCatholic Church
Papacy began21 July 649
Papacy ended16 September 655
PredecessorTheodore I
SuccessorEugene I
Personal details
Died16 September 655 (aged 57)
Cherson, Eastern Roman Empire
Other popes named Martin

Pope Martin I (Latin: Martinus I, Greek: Πάπας Μαρτῖνος; between 590 and 600 – 16 September 655), also known as Martin the Confessor, was the bishop of Rome from 21 July 649 to his death 16 September 655. He served as Pope Theodore I's ambassador to Constantinople and was elected to succeed him as Pope. He was the only pope during the Eastern Roman domination of the papacy whose election was not approved by an imperial mandate from Constantinople. For his strong opposition to Monothelitism, Pope Martin I was arrested by Emperor Constans II, carried off to Constantinople, and ultimately banished to Cherson. He is considered a saint by both the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church and he is the last pope recognized as a martyr.

Early life and career

Martin was born near Todi, Umbria, in the place now named after him (Pian di San Martino). According to his biographer Theodore, Martin was of noble birth, of commanding intelligence, and of great charity to the poor. Piazza states that he belonged to the order of St. Basil.[1]

In 641, Pope John IV sent the abbot Martin into Dalmatia and Istria with large sums of money to alleviate the distress of the inhabitants, and redeem captives seized during the invasion of the Slavs. As the ruined churches could not be rebuilt, the relics of some of the more important Dalmatian saints were brought to Rome, where John then erected an oratory in their honour.[2] Martin acted as apocrisiarius or legate at Constantinople in the early years of the pontificate of Theodore I (642–49), and was a deacon at the time of his election in 649.[3]

Papacy (649–653)

When Martin I was elected pope, Constantinople was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and the patriarch of Constantinople was the most influential Church leader in the eastern Christian world.[4] Martin had himself consecrated without waiting for the imperial ratification of the election.[1] One of his first official acts was to summon the Lateran Council of 649 to deal with the Monothelites, whom the Church considered heretical. The Council met in the basilica of St. John Lateran. It was attended by 105 bishops (chiefly from Italy, Sicily, and Sardinia, with some from Africa and other quarters), held five sessions or secretarii from 5 to 31 October 649, and in twenty canons condemned Monothelitism, its authors, and the writings by which Monothelitism had been promulgated. In this condemnation were included not only the Ecthesis (the exposition of faith of Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople, for which Emperor Heraclius had stood sponsor), but also the Type issued by the reigning emperor, Constans II.[5]

Martin was very energetic in publishing the decrees of the Lateran Council of 649 in an encyclical, and Constans replied by enjoining his exarch in Italy to arrest the pope should he persist and to send him as a prisoner to Constantinople. He was also accused by Constans of unauthorised contact and collaboration with the Muslims of the Rashidun Caliphate—allegations which he was unable to convince the infuriated imperial authorities to drop.[6][7]

The arrest orders were impossible to carry out for some time. On 17 June 653, Martin was arrested in the Lateran along with Maximus the Confessor.[8] He was hurried out of Rome and conveyed first to Naxos, Greece, and subsequently to Constantinople, where he arrived on 17 September 653. He was saved from execution by the pleas of Patriarch Paul II of Constantinople, who was himself gravely ill.[9] Martin hoped that a new pope would not be elected while he lived but the imperial Byzantine government forced the Romans to find a successor. Eugene I was elected on 10 August 654, and Martin apparently acquiesced.[10] After suffering an exhausting imprisonment and reportedly many public indignities, Martin was banished to Cherson,[11] where he arrived on 15 May 655. He died there on 16 September.[9]


Portrayal at St. Martin the Confessor's Church in Moscow

A selection of documents recording the trial and exile of Pope Martin I was translated into Latin in Rome in the ninth century by Anastasius Bibliothecarius.[12]

Since the 1969 revision of the General Roman Calendar, the memorial of Saint Martin I, which earlier versions of the calendar place on 12 November, is on 13 April, celebrated as the formal anniversary of his death.[13][14] In the Byzantine-rite Churches, his feast day is 14 April (27 April New Style).[15][16]

Tondo of Martin I at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls

Pope Pius VII made an honourable reference to Martin in his 1800 encyclical Diu satis:

Indeed, the famous Martin who long ago won great praise for this See, commends faithfulness and fortitude to Us by his strengthening and defense of the truth and by the endurance of labors and pains. He was driven from his See and from the City, stripped of his rule, his rank, and his entire fortune. As soon as he arrived in any peaceful place, he was forced to move. Despite his advanced age and an illness which prevented his walking, he was banished to a remote land and repeatedly threatened with an even more painful exile. Without the assistance offered by the pious generosity of individuals, he would not have had food for himself and his few attendants. Although he was tempted daily in his weakened and lonely state, he never surrendered his integrity. No deceit could trick, no fear perturb, no promises conquer, no difficulties or dangers break him. His enemies could extract from him no sign which would not prove to all that Peter "until this time and forever lives in his successors and exercises judgment as is particularly clear in every age" as an excellent writer at the Council of Ephesus says.[17]

The breviary of the Byzantine Churches states: "Glorious definer of the Orthodox Faith ... sacred chief of divine dogmas, unstained by error ... true reprover of heresy ... foundation of bishops, pillar of the Orthodox faith, teacher of religion. ... Thou didst adorn the divine see of Peter, and since from this divine Rock, thou didst immovably defend the Church, so now thou art glorified with him.”[4]


  1. ^ a b  Mershman, Francis (1910). "Pope St. Martin I". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. ^ Škunca, Stanko Josip (5 September 2006). "Škunca, Stanko Josip. "Pope John IV from Zadar and the Mission of Abbot Martin in 641", Radovi, Institute for Historical Sciences of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zadar, No.48 September 2006. pp. 187–198". Radovi Zavoda za povijesne znanosti HAZU u Zadru (48): 187–198.
  3. ^ Richards 1979, pp. 186–187.
  4. ^ a b "Foley, Leonard OFM. "St. Martin I", Saint of the Day, Franciscan Media".
  5. ^ Norwich, John J. (1988). Byzantium: The Early Centuries. London: Penguin. pp. 317–8. ISBN 0-670-80251-4.
  6. ^ Emmanouela Grypeou; Mark (Mark N.) Swanson; David Richard Thomas (2006). The Encounter of Eastern Christianity With Early Islam. BRILL. p. 79. ISBN 9789004149380.
  7. ^ Walter E. Kaegi (4 November 2010). Muslim Expansion and Byzantine Collapse in North Africa. Cambridge University Press. p. 89. ISBN 9780521196772.
  8. ^ Bury 2005, p. 294.
  9. ^ a b Richards 1979, p. 190.
  10. ^ Attwater 1939, p. 72.
  11. ^ Siecienski 2010, pp. 74.
  12. ^ Charles West, '“And how, if you are a Christian, can you hate the emperor?” Reading a Seventh-Century Scandal in Carolingian Francia', in Criticising the Ruler in pre-modern societies – possibilities, chances and method (open access version)
  13. ^ Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1969), p. 90
  14. ^ Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2001 ISBN 978-88-209-7210-3), p. 220
  15. ^ "St. Martin the Confessor the Pope of Rome". Православие.RU.
  16. ^ Sanidopoulos, John. "Saint Martin the Confessor, Pope of Rome (+ 655)".
  17. ^ Pius VII (1800). "Diu Satis". Papal Encyclicals Online.


Catholic Church titles Preceded byTheodore I Pope 649–655 Succeeded byEugene I