Bay 109 (More Assorted Saints)

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Panel A3 - An angel bringing gold armlets to cover St Martin's bare arms

This is a less well-known, but rather charming episode, which John Beleth added to Sulpicius' Life of St Martin. (Beleth was a 12th century theologian at Paris University, probably of English extraction, and is regarded by some as one of the 'authors', or at the very least, a rédacteur of the Golden Legend.)

According to this story, St Martin, now Bishop of Tours, whilst on the way to celebrate mass, met another half naked beggar and gave him his own tunic to wear. Having dressed in his other vestments, he then sent his archdeacon out to fetch a tunic "for the poor man". The archdeacon went to the market thinking his master meant to give this garment away too, and returned with the cheapest, shortest tunic he could find, which Martin promptly donned himself. Arriving at the part of the mass where the celebrant has to raise his hands, the cheap fabric slipped back, revealing his bare arms beneath - upon which an angel appeared with bejewelled gold armlets to cover the exposed flesh. The artist here has shown the story with particular aplomb, right down to the distraught looking archdeacon kneeling left.