St Martin the Confessor the Pope of Rome

Saint Martin the Confessor, Pope of Rome, was a native of the Tuscany region of Italy. He received a fine education and entered into the clergy of the Roman Church. After the death of Pope Theodore I (642-649), Martin was chosen to succeed him.

At this time the peace of the Church was disturbed by the Monothelite heresy (the false doctrine that in Christ there is only one will. He has a divine, and a human will). The endless disputes of the Monothelites with the Orthodox took place in all levels of the population. Even the emperor Constans (641-668) and Patriarch Paul of Constantinople (641-654) were adherents of the Monothelite heresy. The emperor Constans II published the heretical “Pattern of Faith” (Typos), obligatory for all the population. In it all further disputes were forbidden.

The heretical “Pattern of Faith” was received at Rome in the year 649. St Martin, a firm supporter of Orthodoxy, convened the Lateran Council at Rome to condemn the Monothelite heresy. At the same time St Martin sent a letter to Patriarch Paul, persuading him to return to the Orthodox confession of faith. The enraged emperor ordered the military commander Olympius to bring St Martin to trial. But Olympius feared the clergy and the people of Rome who had descended upon the Council, and he sent a soldier to murder the holy hierarch. When the assassin approached St Martin, he was blinded. The terrified Olympius fled to Sicily and was soon killed in battle.

In 654 the emperor sent another military commander, Theodore, to Rome. He accused St Martin of being in secret correspondence with the enemies of the Empire, the Saracens, and of blaspheming the Most Holy Theotokos, and of uncanonically assuming the papal throne.

Despite the proofs offered by the Roman clergy and laity of St Martin’s innocence, the military commander Theodore with a detachment of soldiers seized St Martin by night and took him to Naxos, one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea. St Martin spent an entire year on this almost unpopulated island, suffering deprivation and abuse from the guards. Then they sent the exhausted confessor to Constantinople for trial.

They carried the sick man on a stretcher, but the judges callously ordered him to stand up and answer their questions. The soldiers propped up the saint, who was weakened by illness. False witnesses came forward slandering the saint and accusing him of treasonous relations with the Saracens. The biased judges did not even bother to hear the saint’s defense. In sorrow he said, “The Lord knows what a great kindness you would show me if you would deliver me quickly over to death.”

After such a trial they brought the saint out in tattered clothes to a jeering crowd. They shouted, “Anathema to Pope Martin!” But those who knew the holy Pope was suffering unjustly, withdrew in tears. Finally the sentence was announced: St Martin was to be deposed from his rank and executed. They bound the half-naked saint with chains and dragged him to prison, where they locked him up with thieves. These were more merciful to the saint than the heretics.

In the midst of all this the emperor went to the dying Patriarch Paul and told him of the trial of St Martin. He turned away from the emperor and said, “Woe is me! This is another reason for my judgment.” He asked that St Martin’s torments be stopped. The emperor again sent a notary and other persons to the saint in prison to interrogate him. The saint answered, “Even if they cripple me, I will not have relations with the Church of Constantinople while it remains in its evil doctrines.” The torturers were astonished at the confessor’s boldness, and they commuted his death sentence to exile at Cherson in the Crimea.

There the saint died, exhausted by sickness, hunger and deprivations on September 16, 655. He was buried outside the city in the Blachernae church of the Most Holy Theotokos, and later the relics of the holy confessor Martin were transferred to Rome.

The Monothelite heresy was condemned at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680.