Leicester Cathedral is built on the ruins of Roman Ratae. 1600 years ago when Martin of Tours, our Patron Saint, died, Ratae (Leicester) was a thriving trading town on a major cross roads. The Fosse Way strode across from the south west coast to Lincoln, the Gartree Way thrust up from Colchester and nearby Watling Street passed by heading up from London. Christianity was a growing religion in Britain by that time and although there are no archaeological remains yet known, prosperous Ratae is bound to have had its Christian church congregation. What better Saint to have as your Patron than Martin of Tours? A convert Roman soldier, devout holy man, valiant against paganism, worker of miracles in life and after death, bishop of the church and acquaintance of Emperors?
Images of St Martin appear throughout Leicester Cathedral:
The Great East Window
St Martin stands with St Michael of Belgium, St Joan of Arc of France and St George of England in this memorial window to the dead of the First World War.
The Bishop’s Throne
St Martin is carved above the Bishop’s seat. The Bishop of Leicester is therefore reminded that he is to be like Martin, a carer of the poor, a holy man, prepared to stand up for what is right in the life of City and County.
The Mayston Chair
A plaque of St Martin on the chair given in memory of former Provost Richard Mayston reminds the Dean (formerly Provost) that all must be welcome in St Martin’s Cathedral.
St Dunstan’s Altar
St Martin is carved on the altar itself and this reminds us that Dunstan followed in the footsteps of Martin. Martin and those who followed him set up a fine school at Tours for training missionaries. The work of training new priests is still firmly linked with St Martin’s Cathedral.
The North Door
As you enter by the North door you will see a small statue of St Martin looking down on you.
St George’s Chapel
The Royal Leicestershire Regiment (the Tigers) have their memorial chapel here. In the south west window, three saints are portrayed as examples to the soldiers: St George to remind them of loyalty to England, St Alban to remind them that it is a noble thing to die for what is right and St Martin to remind them that this convert soldier and saint cares for them particularly, for they are Leicester soldiers.
The Little South Aisle West Window
Many of the representations of St Martin in the Cathedral show the famous incident when although still a soldier, he cut his officer’s cloak to share with a cold poor man. After this, Martin had a vision of Jesus and became a Christian and ultimately a Bishop and Saint.