Martin was born around 316 in one of the cities of the Roman Empire: the Pannonian Savaria. Following his father’s profession and encouragement, he becomes a legionnaire of the Roman army at the age of 15.
He is serving in Galicia when he meets a shivering beggar on a cold day. As an act of compassion, he cuts his military cloak into halves and gives one half to the beggar. A radical change occurs at this moment in his life: Christ appears in his dream in the guise of the beggar whom he had helped the previous day. He courageously asks for exemption from his military services and is baptised although he is risking his life by doing so.
He goes for long journeys: visits his parents in Savaria, where he baptises his mother, retreats into hermitage in Italy, and then establishes monasteries throughout Europe. Miraculous healings and resurrections happen during his trip. He is staying in Tours when he is elected to be the bishop of the city in 371, and although he is hiding in a fowl-run from his appointment, the gaggle of geese reveal his hiding place.
The elderly Martin travels to Candes because of a theological debate, where he passes away in 397. His corpse is transported to Tours where he was buried on 11th November. He is soon held in high esteem throughout Europe: several settlements are named after him, many churches are erected in his honor, and France and Hungary chose him as their patron saint.
The idea of this route was conceived independently in both Hungary and France and, as a result of the French application, it was certified as a European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in 2005. The way connects different locations of the life of keen traveller and bishop, Saint Martin.
The approximately 2500 km long route stretching between Savaria (now Szombathely, Hungary), the birth place of Martin, and Candes-Saint Martin (France) has been supplemented with several shorter sections, which lead to places of worship of Saint Martin.
It is almost impossible to list the varied landscapes covered by this way which requires approximately three and a half months to complete: little and miraculous villages, cities with a great historical past, the passes of the Alps, the scenic Loire Valley, and bishop Martin’s seat, Tours. These are only a few examples showing the diversity. A special beauty of the pilgrimage route is that we can walk on and familiarise ourselves with St. Martin’s path and way of life. This gives us the opportunity of intimately experiencing the exemplary life and faith of a saint living many centuries ago.
The Hungarian Saint Martin Way heading both to Northern and Southern directions starts from Szombathely, which is a city made famous by its monuments from Roman times (e.g. Isis-sanctuary).
Towards South, following the Roman Amber Road at first, the road lies next to one of the most outstanding creations of the Hungarian Roman architecture (Ják), then, after passing a magnificent Baroque castle (Körmend), going through forests and fields, we arrive in one of the most beautiful landscapes of the country, the Őrség. This hilly pilgrimage is coloured by protestant belfries which are distinctive memories of folk architecture in this part of the country.
By going north, we can to catch a glimpse of the life of the old village (Szombathely, Vas County Open Air Museum of Ethnography), greet a hidden gem of the Sub-Alps (Kőszeg), and descend into a less hilly region after passing dense pine forests and mountains.
At the same time, the plain landscape carries a lot of treasures: small Romanesque church (Sopronhorpács), Renaissance-Baroque castle (Mihályi), and a Baroque Lutheran church glowing with bare dignity (Nemeskér).
Eventually, the pilgrim’s journey reaches the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma, which stands on Pannonian grounds and was once built on the Hill of St. Martin. The abbey extraordinarily fuses the thousand-year-old past and Christian spirituality in itself, as well as providing an excellent example for an inspiring encounter between the old and the modern.