Róbert Orbán, Chairman of Via Sancti Martini – Hungary 


What is your personal relationship or connection with St. Martin? How far is it a personal bond and how far is it the result of your assignment?

Although I was not born in Szombathely and I am a Calvinist, I have been interested in Martin, the person for a long time. I marvelled in how many countries and cultures he is venerated. Among the characteristic features he had I respect mercy and that he was not affected by high rank and fame. I was also eager to know what a city can start with her son who is a widely respected religious figure.

Working in the field of culture I began to elaborate on Martin: I organised smaller events, compiled brochures, marked the first possible pilgrim routes and found out the name Via Sancti Martini about which I did not know if it was grammatically correct at all. This then led to the establishment of our association which connected with the great St. Martin Route and with the umbrella organisation in Tours coordinating the other associations relating to St. Martin.

What do you think about the uncertainty of the legends on St. Martin’s life? Does it weaken the chance of the survival of the tradition or is it independent from the certain, factual and historic legacy?

No, it does not weaken it at all. Every legend is good which represents and entails the spirit of the given person, historical situation etc. Those legends are good which demonstrate Martin’s cult, and which include Martin’s values. Legend creators exist even today, and luckily enough, the emerging new legends have to stand the test of time. The same applies to folk traditions. 

We face cases when an element of tradition displaces another one: as I experienced St. Martin’s croissant will supplant the strudel considering the meals relating to St. Martin, although ethnographic documents indicated a strong tradition of strudel in this respect. The specially rolled strudel and the sharing of it are linked to St. Martin’s day and this custom could be found in many places of Vas county. However, we can hardly see any strudels in the recent gastronomic offer of Szombathely.

How far are local families aware of St. Martin’s Historical Walking Path as a walking path for the weekend? And the Via Sancti Martini?

Do we have the right impression from the news that rather foreigners choose St. Martin’s pilgrim route and only a few Hungarians?

For sure you have the right impression. In recent years I have only heard of one pilgrim from Hungary who completed the whole path. Most pilgrims we hear of or we meet come from France.

The idea and the tradition of pilgrimage are missing in Hungary already. Also, we must admit that the 2500 km route is very long, we simply could not make it in less than 3 months’ time, not to mention the costs. From marketing point of view, the popularity and the utilisation of the St. Martin Route could be raised by promoting it in sections as pilgrims would rather complete shorter and well signposted sections rather than the whole route.

Unfortunately, I have the impression that not many know or walk on the local St. Martin Historical Walking Path. When I guide sight-seeing groups the 2,4 km walk with stops proves to be long. Sorry to say that we often cannot even reach the St. Martin church and the visitor’s centre.