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I was reading about the Anglican church St Martin-in-the-Fields and was curious about the in-the-Fields part of the name. It is named after Martin of Tours who was a saint in France during the 4th century.

Saints are sometimes referred to by a significant place (Kevin of Glendalough, Alipy of the Caves) or by a title (Anthony the Great, Pope Cyril I the Pillar of Faith). But here the saint is Martin-in-the-Fields, stylized as one word as if it is the name of the saint (think Kevin-of-Glendalough). Additionally, I've never seen an in description, going over a list of saints it's mostly ofs and thes. I would expect it to be St Martin of the Fields, if anything.

Why is Martin-in-the-Fields the chosen name what do the "Fields" refer to?

My speculation is that since he was a military saint, in-the-Fields means in the fields of battle, but I found no reference to that.

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    I have a suspicion that this title originates in France. But it may refer to the fact that although he was once a soldier and became the Bishop of Tours, he spent much of his time as bishop travelling through many fields and byways in order to convert pagans. – Ken Graham May 17 '17 at 11:51
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    Why is St Martin “in-the-Fields”? Because he wasn't good enough to play catcher. You now have the punch line for a joke. 8^D – KorvinStarmast May 17 '17 at 12:47
  • The funny part is that there are many "Saint-Martin-des-Champs" in France, meaning exactly the same thing. One very known church in Paris is called like that. And several cities. There are no "Saint-Jacques-des-Champs" or "Saint-Hugues-des-Champs" to my knowledge, it's always with "Martin". I don't know if it's a coincidence, or if the "field" part is linked to the story of St Martin, or a tribute to the French St-Martin priory-church (built in the middle-age) – Quidam Sep 21 '17 at 17:38
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Historically churches (Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and so on) are dedicated to one of the saints or a particular mystery in Our Lord's Life or the Most holy Virgin Mary.

As for the Catholic Church, a bishop is free to give a church any title he wishes as long as some basic guidelines are followed.

Canon law requires that our sacred buildings (churches, oratories and private chapels) must be blessed or dedicated and given a title of (1) the name of the Trinity, or (2) the name of Christ, invoked under a mystery of his life or under his name already used in the Mass, or (3) the name of the Holy Spirit, or (4) the name of Mary, under a given title already found in the Mass, or (5) the name of the Angels, or (6) the name of a canonized Saint in the Roman Martyrology, or (7) the name of a Blessed provided the Apostolic See has given it’s permission. - Canon Law Guidelines for Naming a Catholic Parish

When a suffix is added to a title of a church, it may be either a reference to the saint or the place where the church is located or both.

Some examples of Church titles:

St Martin-in-the-Fields

Church Domine Quo Vadis

St. Joseph the Worker Church

Hagia Sophia (Sancta Sophia or Sancta Sapientia)

Église Saint-Martin aux Champs (1220)

St James of Compostella (while its origins are not certain, Compostela may come from the Latin campus stellae, “field of stars”).

As for Catholic Churches that contain distinguished relics at an altar, I am sure that there will be special norms that are to be applied to the naming of the church or a particular side altar. (I know where to look, but have difficulty obtaining the required link, but will update when possible).

Now back to the question of as to Why is St Martin “in-the-Fields”?

In very early times it is said that a chapel dedicated to St. Martin was erected near Charing Cross, "for the convenience of the officers of Westminster Abbey and Palace, on their way to Covent Garden;" and this, no doubt, was the original "St. Martin's-in-the-Fields." But this is only a tradition. More trustworthy is the statement that St. Martin's was built by order and at the cost of Henry VIII., who disliked to see the funerals of his liege subjects passing through or past Whitehall, much as Louis XIV of France resolved to build the Château at Versailles because he could not help seeing the towers of St. Denis from the terrace at Saint-Germain.

The church is so called after the chivalrous Hungarian, St. Martin, who was Bishop of Tours in the fourth century, and in whose honour it is dedicated. It received its surname, "in the fields," like its sister church of St. Giles, from its situation outside the City proper, when it was first taken into the bills of mortality, in order to distinguish it from other churches eastwards under the same dedication. - St Martin-in-the-Fields

WEST VIEW OF THE OLD CHURCH OF ST. MARTIN'S-IN-THE-FIELDS

WEST VIEW OF THE OLD CHURCH OF ST. MARTIN'S-IN-THE-FIELDS; PULLED DOWN IN 1721. (From a Print published by J. T. Smith in 1808.)

Addendum:

When all is said and done a bishop may choose this title in honor of St Martin's field work of evangelization or after this saint to distinguish it from a previously named church of the same title (especially if more than one church is dedicated to St Martin in the area) or simply after anther church of the same name!. During the French Revolution thousands of French churches were destroyed. The French Church, Église Saint-Martin aux Champs was constructed in 1220 AD , and is clearly older than above mentioned British church!

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    That doesn't explain the French and American churches of the same name though. It's not clear whether or not they're named after the British church. – Matt Gutting May 22 '17 at 1:02
  • @MattGutting When all is said and done a bishop may choose this title in honor of St Martin's field work of evangelization or after this saint to distinguish it from a previously named church of the same title (especially if more than one church is dedicated to St Martin in the area) or simply after anther church of the same name!. During the French Revolution thousands of French churches were destroyed. The French Church, Église Saint-Martin aux Champs was constructed in 1220 AD , and is clearly older than above mentioned British church! – Ken Graham May 22 '17 at 13:25
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    Agreed - can we see something about this in the answer, though? Seems like it belongs. – Matt Gutting May 22 '17 at 13:31
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From the Wikipedia article you linked:

St Martin-in-the-Fields is an English Anglican church at the north-east corner of Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster, London. [...] Henry VIII rebuilt the church in 1542 to keep plague victims in the area from having to pass through his Palace of Whitehall. At this time, it was literally "in the fields", an isolated position between the cities of Westminster and London.

"In the fields" appears to be a reference to the location of the church, or the location of his burial site – not the name of the saint himself.

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    On the other hand, there are (based on a quick web search) plenty of US Episcopalian churches with the same name, which (even in the "History" or "About" section of their web site) don't make any reference to being named after this church. If they are named after the church, I'd have expected mention would be made of that - but if they aren't, the meaning of "in the fields" hasn't been adequately explained. – Matt Gutting May 17 '17 at 10:19
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    (regarding relics) Before this dispersion, certain churches had obtained small portions which they still preserve. The priory of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields at Paris is possessed of a part: two of his teeth are shown in St. Martin’s, at Tournay. The cathedral at Tours was built by St. Martin in honour of St. Maurice: but since the year 1096, bears the title of St. Gatian’s Answer may need a bit more research to address the question as asked. – KorvinStarmast May 17 '17 at 12:45
  • I tend to agree with the comments. I'll have to wait some more to see if more research is done. Thanks. – user1803551 May 17 '17 at 12:58
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    @KorvinStarmast interestingly that quote says "St. Martin 's -in-the-Fields", not "St. Martin-in-the-Fields", seeming to indicate that "in-the-Fields" applies to the church, and not the saint. – Matt Gutting May 17 '17 at 17:11
  • @MattGutting I am not sure if that is an issue with translating from French to English, or that the possessive semantic distinction goes beyond that. – KorvinStarmast May 17 '17 at 17:35

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