Saint of the Month: St. Martin of Tours / San Martin Caballero

Louis Galloche. “A Scene From the Life of St. Martin.” 1737. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) Image Library. Public domain.

November’s saint for the Saint of the Month Box is St. Martin of Tours, aka San Martin Caballero, whose feast day in the Roman Catholic calendar is November 11th.

He was a 4th century bishop in Tours but had once been a soldier, and this is how he’s almost always pictured in the art of Western Christendom – a soldier on horseback cutting his cloak in half to clothe a beggar. He had a reputation for miracles even while he was still living, and he was one of the first non-martyred saints to be venerated so widely.

Officially, he’s the patron saint of beggars, the cavalry (and equestrians generally), innkeepers, soldiers, and geese, and he is invoked against poverty and alcoholism.

In popular practice, however, especially in the Latin American tradition, you’ll find his image in restaurants, hotels, bars, shops, and anywhere else where the proprietors rely at least in part on strangers/passing travelers for their income. You’ll also find his image — and especially his horse’s horseshoe — serving as a fairly broad-based good luck token in all kinds of contexts. Folks call on him when they need a job, pray for his intercession to protect them from evil and change their bad luck, carry his package amulet or bundle when they’re gambling, hang his image in their homes for general luck and prosperity, even build a shrine with his horseshoe when they need a better place to live (and they are sure to give the shrine pride of place when they move into the new digs!)

(c) Karma Zain 2014.

You can get your very own cool box of San Martin Caballero stuff in the Saint of the Month box for November at Seraphin Station. They usually contain something you don’t already have because I’ve collected a ton of cool stuff over the course of my lifetime working with saints and spirits, and they will usually contain some item or product that you can’t get elsewhere or otherwise.

Learn more or order your Saint of the Month box now at Seraphin Station.

Nov 11, Feast of St. Martin of Tours (San Martin Caballero)

November 11 is the feast of St. Martin of Tours, an early 4th century soldier-turned-bishop.  Martin probably never fought a day in his life, being what one might call a “conscientious objector” to his inherited military career and position, but he is nevertheless famously depicted on horseback and in armor in iconography.  He’s more commonly know in folk Catholic circles as San Martin Caballero (the Horse-Rider), and he’s shown cutting his cloak in half and giving half to a poor beggar.

Some people call him the patron of drunkards, though I don’t know this to be a strong tradition in my area.  Apparently he died on the pagan festival day in his area where new wine was tasted (Nov. 11), and the phrase “martin-drunk” in England is said to reflect this.  I don’t know if this is true; I read it somewhere but I”ve never been to England.

He was born in a Roman province, died in France, and was one of the most beloved bishops of his time.  Today, he is commonly called on for assistance with money, especially by business owners (his image graces the wall behind the register in many a Mexican restaurant in the Southeast U.S.), and he’s known as a saint for good luck in general in many areas.  People who rely on the kindness and/or patronage of strangers will find a strong ally in St. Martin of Tours. He is the patron of the poor, beggars, drunks, horsepersons, inkeepers, and soldiers.

I have called on this saint for assistance with locating a new home, and I know some of my clients have too, with great success.  He is often associated with a lucky horseshoe for cases like this – the horseshoe can be decorated with red ribbon and sequins and hung up in the new home when San Martin has come through for you.