Bishop of Limoges in the third century. We have no accurate information as to the origin, dates of birth and death, or the acts of this bishop. All that we know of him we have from Gregory of Tours and it may be summed up thus: Under the consulate of Decius and of Gratus seven bishops were sent from Rome to Gaul to preach the Gospel; Gatien to Tours, Trophimus to Arles, Paul to Narbonne Saturninus to Toulouse, Denis to Paris, Austromoine to Clermont, and Martial to Limoges. Martial seems to have been accompanied by two priests brought by him from the Orient, so he himself may have been born in that region. He succeeded in converting the inhabitants of Limoges to the true Faith, and his memory has always been venerated there.
Very early, the popular imagination, which so easily creates legends, transformed Martial into an apostle of the first century. Sent into Gaul by St. Peter himself he is said to have evangelized not only the Province of Limoges but all Aquitaine. He performed many miracles, among others the raising of a dead man to life, by touching him with a rod that St. Peter had given him. A "Life of St. Martial" attributed to Bishop Aurelian, his successor, in reality the work of an eleventh-century forger, develops this legendary account. According to it Martial was born in Palestine, was one of the seventy-two disciples of Christ, assisted at the resurrection of Lazarus, was at the Last Supper, was baptized by St. Peter, etc.
This tissue of fables which fills long pages was received with favour not only by the unlettered but also by the learned of past centuries and even of modern times. For a long time however it has been exposed to well-warranted discussion that St. Martial's biography is linked with the great question of the apostolicity of certain Churches of Gaul. As to what concerns St. Martial, it has been clearly proved that we must honour in him not one of the seventy-two disciples of Christ but the first preacher of the Christian faith in the Province of Limoges, and that we should not go beyond this. Mgr Buissas, Bishop of Limoges, having petitioned the Holy See in 1853 that the most ancient of his predecessors should not be deprived of the honours so long accorded him as one of the seventy-two disciples of Christ, the Sacred Congregation, unanimously on 8 April, 1854 and Pius IX in his decree of 8 May following, refused absolutely to bestow on St. Martial the title of disciple of Christ and confined themselves to saying that the veneration that was accorded him was of very ancient origin. Two Epistles inserted in the Bibliotheca Patrum are attributed to St. Martial, but they are apocryphal. The Church celebrates his feast on 30 June.
ARBELLOT, Documents inédits sur l'apostolat de St. Martial et sur l'apostolicité des églises de France (Paris, 1860); AURÉLIEN, Vita S. Martialis apostoli, from a Manuscript in the British Museum (no place or date); COUTURE in Rev. de Gascogne, XXII. xii (Auch, 1881), 294-8; BARONIUS, Ann. (1605), 1032, 1-3; BELLET, St. Martial apôtre de Limoges (Paris, 1898); IDEM, La prose rythmée et la critique hagiographique, nouvelle réponse aux Bollandistes, suivie du texte de l'ancienne Vie de St. Martial (Paris, 1899); IDEM, L'âge de la Vie de St. Martial (Paris, 1900); BOLLANDISTS, Catal. codd. hagiogr. lat. B. N. Paris. (Paris, 1889), I, 198-209; II, 293-5, 385-92; III, 276-8, 522-8; Act. SS. (1709), June, V, 538-44; DESCHAMPS, L'apôrte S. Martial (Limoges, 1893); DUCHESNE, S. Martial de Limoges in Ann. du Midi, IV (Toulouse, 1892), 289-330; LAPLAGNE, L'apostolat de St. Martial (Limoges, 1896); THOMAS, Le plus ancien manuscrit de la Vie de St. Martial in Ann. du Midi, VI (Toulouse, 1894), 349-51; see also Analecta Bollandiana (Brussels), I, 411-46; XII, 465-6; XIII, 404-5; XIV, 328; XV, 87-8; XVI, 501-6.