Saint Martin of Tours, the Honorary Hungarian
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
St Martin was one of the most important hagiographical figures of France in the Middle Ages. Because of his Pannonian origins, he was also an important saint for the Hungarian kings and for the monks of the abbey of Pannonhalma, Martin’s supposed birthplace in medieval times, where his cult was the strongest in Hungary. Martin’s connection to Pannonia, which became part of Hungary after the settlement of Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin, was not totally ignored in France, where Martin’s cult took root. In the late twelfth century, the Historia septem sanctorum dormientium, a curious hagiographical story invented to support a new cult of the seven hermit saints of the abbey of Marmoutier, claimed that St Martin of Tours descended from the royal family of the Huns or Hungarians. Hungarian scholars investigated the origins and the spread of this motif in the early twentieth century, but on the basis of a mistaken, much earlier dating of the Historia.
In this essay, I establish the exact relationship and chronology of the known texts containing the motif of St Martin’s royal and Hungarian origins. Moreover, I offer a systematic survey of the saint’s medieval French biographies, showing how limited knowledge of this motif was outside the texts descending directly from the Historia. At the same time, I examine a hitherto unedited Old French legend contained in a single manuscript (Paris, BNF fr. 1534), a legend which constitutes an addition to the corpus of texts referring to Martin as a Hungarian prince.