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Some of the accounts of his travels may have been interpolated into his vita to validate early sites of his cult.He is best known for the account of his using his military sword to cut his cloak in two, to give half to a beggar clad only in rags in the depth of winter.He had been drawn to Tours by a ruse — he was urged to come to minister to someone sick — and was brought to the church, where he reluctantly allowed himself to be consecrated bishop.According to one version, he was so unwilling to be made bishop that he hid in a barn full of geese, but their cackling at his intrusion gave him away to the crowd; that may account for complaints by a few that his appearance was too disheveled to be commensurate with a bishopric, but the critics were hugely outnumbered.It had many more adherents in the Eastern Empire, whence it had sprung, and was concentrated in cities, brought along the trade routes by converted Jews and Greeks (the term 'pagan' literally means 'country-dweller').

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According to his biographer, Sulpicius Severus, he served in the military for only another two years, though it has been argued that these two years, "are in fact not nearly enough to bring the account to the time when he would leave, that is, during his encounter with Caesar Julian (the one who has gone down in history as Julian the Apostate) Martin would have been 45 years old when Julian acceded to the throne, and at the usual end of a military contract.

According to the early sources, Martin decided to seek shelter on the island then called Gallinaria, now Isola d'Albenga, in the Ligurian Sea, where he lived the solitary life of a hermit.

With the return of Hilary to his see in 361, Martin joined him and established a hermitage nearby, which soon attracted converts and followers.

While in Illyricum he took sides against the Arians with so much zeal that he was publicly scourged and forced to leave.

Returning from Illyria, he was confronted by the Arian archbishop of Milan Auxentius, who expelled him from the city.

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