Okay, now it’s time to reveal the answer. The link is Saint Martin, whom you can see in the painting. The top photo is the picturesque village of Candes Saint-Martin, on the confluent of the Loire and the Vienne. Saint-Martin died here at the end of the fourth century. And the third photo is the village church of Zaventem in Belgium where the above-mentioned painting by Sir Anthony Van Dijck is hanging.
Saint-Martin was quite a character. He was born in Hungary in 316 A.C. His father was a high-ranking officer in the Roman legion, which probably explains why Martin enlisted too at the young age of 17. The painting depicts a legendary scene from the young soldier’s life. He’s cutting his military cloak in half to hand part of it to a half-naked beggar by the city gates. Martin must have been about 25 at the time. He was reprimanded for this kind gesture as his senior officer claimed that the cloak was property of the Roman Empire and the young man was ordered to refund the cloak from his meagre salary.
The interior of the church in Zaventem.
Later Martin left the army and became a missionary. The travelled extensively with explains the presence of the many Saint Martin churches and villages all over France and Europe. The story goes that he brought a vine from his home country, carrying it the hollow bone of a bird filled with earth to keep it alive. When the vine grew, he put it in the bigger bone of a donkey and later that of an oxen. When he arrived in the Loire Valley, he planted his vine, which by then was big and strong, in the chalky soil around Vouvray … where it flourished and grew.
Martin was very popular and became Bishop of Tours, where he later, in 397 died and was buried at the fine old age of 81. He must have been a very healthy man, to have lived that long in those dark ages. Maybe it was the Loire Valley wines that contributed to his good health!
Sir Anthony Van Dijck, a famous 16th century portrait painter, was born in Antwerp. During his life, he lived in Zaventem for a while, where since the 1950ties Brussels airport is located. During his short stay, he fell in love with the daughter of one of the village’s noblemen. They never had a change to get married though, because Antony was called to the English court, where he became portrait painter to the English royals. To show his affection for his beloved and the village where he had spent such a great time, he donated the painting of Saint-Martin to the village, where until this day it is still on display in the local church.
Well, that’s it; the famous link. I’d like to end this post on a poetic and romantic quote. A quote that beautifully expresses the serenity and royalty of Candes Saint Martin. A French poet described it as the spot “where a King (The Loire, Le Fleuve Royal) receives a Princess (The Vienne River) in his bed …”