Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



Martin of Tours has become one of the most famous saints of Western Christendom, yet his life was shrouded in controversy. Martin’s initial fame in Aquitaine came from the circulation of Sulpicius Severus’ writings in the early fifth century. A pupil of the holy man and lawyer from Aquitaine, Severus used his pen to protect Martin’s sanctity from attacks by critics such as Ithacius and other members of the clergy. This thesis will use the three works of Severus, the Vita Martini, Chronicorum, and Dialogus to argue that Severus used a rhetorical strategy throughout his Martinian writings to secure Martin’s sanctity and legitimacy as a bishop. Through the successful defense that these documents presented, Martin’s sanctity has survived the test of time, despite the fact that his life and Severus’ writings about him have been a source of scholastic debate. This thesis consists of five chapters followed by a conclusion. Chapter One will place Martin and Severus in their historical context and introduce the historiography of the Martinian works. Chapter Two will explore criticisms of both Martin’s life as a soldier and of his lack of the educational and social background prevalent in his fellow bishops. Chapter Three will then explore the early struggles that came from reconciling the responsibilities of the ascetic lifestyle with the communal responsibilities as a bishop. Chapter Four will investigate the criticism over Martin’s involvement with Priscillian of Avila, a rebuke which Severus fully engages in a strong defensive posture to protect Martin’s reputation from accusations of heresy. Next, Chapter Five will treat charges of hypocrisy contemporary critics brought against Martin. This thesis will not simply highlight these four criticisms that Severus attempted to resolve, but will also explore why these critiques are present in the hagiography and the rhetorical defense used by Severus to secure Martin’s sanctity.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Maribel Dietz



Included in

History Commons