WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

The man who gave us ‘chapel’


Fay Clayton
August 2012

He was as good as he was gallant – a brave French soldier. One day when out riding he saw a beggar on the street, thinly clad and shivering.

Without a second thought he unclasped his great woollen cloak, split it in half with his sword, gave half to the beggar and rode on with half a cloak. In those few seconds Martin of Tours in France had made history.

Born (ca316) to pagan parents, Martin was attracted to Christianity in his teens. In time, he became a priest, but when his loving parishioners wanted him to be bishop he hid from them in a shed. But the gaggling geese there gave him away. Bishop he became and a very holy one at that.

After his death (397) his confreres wondered what to do with his cloak. Finally it was placed in a special building and the building named for its function, that of holding a cape. The French chape becomes chapelle and in English we say chapel.

Chapels the world over are used by people of numerous faiths. They’re found in universities, colleges, schools, hospitals, palaces and prisons, and they are ever meant to be a place of peace, quiet and serenity.

So sometime when you’re in your quiet chapel give a thought to Martin of Tours, Samaritan supreme.