Martin Marty (bishop)

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For other people with the same name, see Martin E. Marty.
Bishop Martin Marty O.S.B.

Bishop Martin Marty, O.S.B. (Schwyz, Switzerland, January 12, 1834 – Saint Cloud, Minnesota, September 19, 1896) was a Benedictine priest and missionary in America. He was the first Abbot of St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana, the first Vicar Apostolic of Dakota Territory, and the second Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saint Cloud. His zeal for the Indian Missions earned him the title, "The Apostle of the Sioux."[1]

Early life[edit]

James Joseph Alois Marty was born in the Canton Schwyz in Switzerland in 1834, the son of a shoemaker and church sexton. Before the age of two, his mouth and face were both severely burned when he attempted to drink from a bottle of acid in his father's shop. The acid caused swelling that nearly suffocated him and left his face permanently disfigured where he had spat it out.

After graduating from the Jesuit-run gymnasium in his hometown, he was granted a musical scholarship to the Jesuit college at Fribourg. After the Sonderbund War of 1847, the Jesuit Order was expelled by Switzerland's Anti-Catholic government and the Benedictine Order was forced to fill the ensuing educational vacuum. On December 21, 1847, young Marty was enrolled at the Benedictine school attached to Einsiedeln Abbey.

Monk, priest, and abbot[edit]

After graduation, he entered the novitiate at the age of 20 and took his final vows on May 29, 1855, taking the name Brother Martin Marty. He was ordained to the priesthood just over a year later. In 1859, he was assigned a professorship of moral theology.


In 1860, Abbot Heinrich Schmid von Baar ordered the 26-year-old priest to take over responsibility for the Abbey's disobedient and debt-ridden daughter house at St. Meinrad, Indiana. Although the assignment was intended to last only one year, Father Marty proved so adept at building up the formerly failing monastery that Abbot Schmid von Baar decided that it was God's will for his young protégé to remain in America. On September 30, 1870, Saint Meinrad was upgraded to an independent Abbey by decree of Pope Pius IX. In January of the following year, Father Martin Marty was elected as its first Abbot. The investiture ceremony the following May was conducted by Bishop de Saint Palais of Vincennes, Indiana and Abbot Boniface Wimmer of Latrobe, Pennsylvania.


In 1875, Abbot Martin instituted a change in the devotional practice of the Abbey, substituting the Roman Breviary for the Benedictine Breviary. When this policy caused a major uproar, the dispute was referred to the Sacred Congregation of Rites in Rome. On March 9, 1876, word reached the Abbot that the Congregation had ruled against him and ordered him to reinstate the Traditional Breviary. Although Abbot Marty immediately obeyed, he would always feel that he had undergone a "temporary defeat" in his dream of drawing the Benedictine Order closer to Diocesan clergy. His failure would leave him disheartened with life at St. Meinrad and anxious to obtain a new pastorate.

The following July, he departed by steamer for Standing Rock in Dakota Territory, where he intended to devote himself to founding a Benedictine monastery to assist the Indian Missions.


  • "Happy would I be if I could sacrifice for God what Custer threw away to the world."[2]

External links[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Robert F. Karolevitz, "Bishop Martin Marty; Black Robe Lean Chief," 1980, page 55.