St Martin of Tours and Joan of Arc, festal white high altar frontal
Ethel Barton, Melbourne, 1926

St Martin and Joan of Arc, festal white altar frontal

These panels are located to the right of the central panel, and depict two French saints, Martin of Tours and Joan of Arc. For Ethel Barton, these French saints were more than just a general reference to the theatre in which there were so many Australian losses; her son had been in France, and the parish paper published a letter in which he described how his activities ranged from eating horseflesh for Christmas dinner to playing the organ accompaniment to three vocal solos in the 'Grand Messe' on Christmas morning, in the church in the village in which he was quartered.

The military associations of Joan of Arc need no comment, but St Martin was probably included, not so much because he was a professional soldier before his baptism, but because of his feast day — 11 November. He is shown here using his episcopal cope to cover the nakedness of a beggar — a somewhat drastic modification of the original narrative, in which St Martin was approached by a naked beggar while he was still enrolled in the Roman army. What he provided the beggar with for clothing was something far more practical than an ecclesiastical vestment: namely, half of his military cloak.

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