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St. Martin Escapes from a Falling Pine-tree

Sulpitius Severus
After St. Martin was acclaimed Bishop of Tours in the year 371, he took very aggressive actions against the pagan temples and symbols, destroying one after another.

Once, in a certain village he had demolished a very ancient temple, and had set about cutting down a pine tree worshipped by the pagans as a god, which stood close to the temple.

St. Martin of Tours

St. Martin destroyed the pagan idols & temples throughout Tours

The chief priest of that place and a crowd of other heathens began to oppose him. These people, who, under the influence of the Lord, had been quiet while the temple was being overthrown, would not patiently allow the tree to be cut down. Martin carefully instructed them that there was nothing sacred in the trunk of a tree, and urged them rather to honor God whom he himself served. He added that there was a moral reason for why that tree should be cut down, because it had been dedicated to a demon.

Then one of the protesting pagans who was bolder than the others said: “If you have any trust in your God, whom you say you worship, we ourselves will cut down this tree, so long as you lay yourself down in the very path where it will fall. For if, as you declare, your Lord is with you, you will escape all injury.”

Then Martin, courageously trusting in the Lord, promised that he would do what had been asked. Upon his assent, all that crowd of heathens agreed to the condition named, for they held the loss of their tree a small matter if only they could be rid of the enemy of their religion buried beneath its fall.

Accordingly, since that pine tree was hanging over in one direction so that there was no doubt about how it would fall on being cut, the pagans bound the body of Martin with ropes and placed him on the ground on that spot where, as no one doubted, the tree was about to fall.

Tree

The cut tree turned in midair & fell the opposite direction

They began, therefore, to cut down their own tree with great glee and joyfulness, while at some distance a great multitude of wondering spectators stood to view the spectacle.

And now the pine tree began to totter and to threaten its own ruin by falling. The monks at a distance grew pale and were terrified by the danger ever coming nearer their holy Bishop. Losing all hope and confidence, they expected only the death of Martin.

But he calmly trusted in the Lord and waited courageously. Then, as the falling pine uttered its expiring crash and began to fall, it started to rush down upon him. But Martin simply held up his hand against it and made the Sign of Cross, the sign of salvation.

Then, indeed, like a spinning-top (one might have thought it were being driven back and away from the Bishop’s prostrate body), it swept around in midair to the opposite side, with such speed and force that it almost crushed the rustic audiences, who had taken their places there in what was deemed a safe spot.

Then truly, a shout was raised to Heaven. The heathen were amazed by the miracle while the monks wept for joy, and the name of Christ was in common extolled by all.

Hammer

His hammer with these words on its grip: ‘The pagan statues fall, hit by St. Martin’s axe’

The well-known result was that on that day salvation came to that region. For there was hardly one of that immense multitude of heathens who did not express a desire for Baptism, and abandoning his impious errors, made a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus.

Certainly, before the times of Martin, very few, nay, almost none, in those regions had received the name of Christ. But through his virtues and example Christians have become so numerous that now there is no place thereabouts which is not filled with very crowded churches or monasteries. For wherever he destroyed heathen temples, there he would immediately build either churches or monasteries.


Adapted from Sulpitius Severus, The Life of St Martin de Tours,
trans. by Alexander Roberts
Posted November 12, 2022

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