Spirituality for Today – October 2012 – Volume 17, Issue 3

The 74th Pope
Pope Saint Martin I

An image of Pope Saint Martin I, the 74th PopePope Saint Martin I, the 74th Pope

Pope Saint Martin I (649-655) – Pope Martin would complete the long list of popes who were evidenced to be martyrs. A member of the nobility through birth, he revealed a high intellect, was resolute in defense of the faith, and showed great concern for the poor.

As with previous popes, the problem of Monothelitism (heresy claiming that Jesus had only a divine will) caused tension with the emperor. An exarch is a bishop who functions independently from the five patriarchs of the Eastern Church. The emperor commissioned the bishop, Olympius as an exarch and sent him to Rome to convince the pope to support the emperor on the issue of Monothelitism. The pope would not agree. In response, the emperor sent another exarch to arrest the pope and to bring him before the imperial court in Constantinople. There, Pope Martin refused approval of the Typos (document of Emperor Constans II supporting Monothelitism) and the emperor had the pope exiled to Cherson (suffering from a famine at the time) where the pope died and was buried.

Because the pope had been away in exile for nearly one year, the Roman clergy, fearful of the emperor's intentions, in 644 elected a new pope, Eugenius I. Pope Martin did not die until 655. Therefore, it appears that there were two popes reigning simultaneously. There is no record of Pope Martin I resigning, but there is documentation that he was favorable toward the action of the clergy in electing Eugenius as pope.

The body of Pope Martin I later was exhumed from his burial site in Cherson and brought to Rome where he was entombed in the church San Martino ai Monti.

Habemus papam