Plot Summary for Martin of Gfenn

Martin of Gfenn is the story of a young artist named Martin living in Zürich, Switzerland, in the mid-thirteenth century. Left by his father (a minor knight) with the Augustine Canons of St. Martin, Martin shows promise as an artist at a very young age. The Provost finds a teacher for Martin in the person of Michele, an Augustine Canon and artist from Verona, who has been sent to Zürich as punishment and penance. Michele teaches Martin everything about fresco painting, infusing him with his own passion for drawing, color and the plaster itself. After a few years, Michele is called back to Verona.

At nineteen, primed to begin his life as a master painter, Martin contracts leprosy. He is given the rite of separation and sent away from the Augustine Canons of St. Martin and told to go to the leper community of the Knights of St. Lazarus in the village of Gfenn, one day walk to the north. Unable to bear the thought of this, he goes in the other direction, to the city of Zürich.

As often happens in the early days of the disease of leprosy, Martin’s symptoms go into remission. Hoping this is a sign that he is healed or the diagnosis was mistaken, Martin builds a successful career as a painter on the streets of the swiftly growing city. After three years, at the moment his dream of painting the walls of Zürich’s great church, the Grossmünster, is about to be realized, his disease reappears with a vengeance. Martin soon knows he cannot remain in Zürich without being discovered. He leaves, resolved to finally go to the Lazarite Community at Gfenn.

On his journey to Gfenn, Martin suffers from the flu, and finds he cannot travel. He retreats into the forest of the Zürichberg (Zürich Mountain) which is between Zürich and Gfenn. Fascinated by the mysteries of the natural beauty around him, new and unfamiliar, he spends the summer as a Wild Man of the Woods, learning more about drawing and about himself. Finally, caught by some dogs belonging to boar hunters, Martin is discovered. He knows he cannot fight his fate any longer, and he makes his way to the small enclave of the Knights of Saint Lazarus, in the village of Gfenn.

Though he could not have known it, it is only when he accepts his condition that Martin can be who he really is. Believing it his destiny to paint a sanctuary, he undertakes the newly built chapel at the community of the Knights of St. Lazarus. The philosophical focus of the story is a look at Medieval Christianity from the perspective of Martin whose leprosy, youth, passion for painting and education have conspired to make him an early-day Christian humanist.

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7 thoughts on “Plot Summary for Martin of Gfenn

  1. It’s on my wishlist, Martha. I’ve got Kindle for PC to work on my laptop now (running Linux). I’ve read the ‘look inside’ on Amazon and it was enough to encourage me to want more. 🙂

    1. I think you will enjoy it! Now that I’m mostly moved into my new house I’ve started seriously trying to market it. At least I got it set up for Kindle. I really look forward to hearing your thoughts as you read — or when you finish.

      1. I probably won’t get to it until the new year, since I did forget (oops!) and downloaded some free books from Story Cartel and also just received Millie Thom’s book which I promised to review. I’m a fast reader, though! I love your writing style so far, and will be happy to review when done.

      2. That would be really wonderful, Christine. If you like it at the end, I’d be honored if you wrote a review for it. Thanks!

  2. Hi Martha, I left a message in another post for you to contact me via my blog, but I don’t seem to have a ‘contact me’ button anymore. I’m halfway through your wonderful story, on the Kindle version, and there are formatting problems I thought you might like to know about. It doesn’t start until well in, so wouldn’t be obvious with a part read. Catch you later. 🙂

    1. That sucks — I don’t have any control over the formatting, so you might want to let Amazon know. I’ll download it over myself, and look it over I guess, then complain to Amazon to. Thanks for letting me know!!

      1. I thought I should let you know. I’m pretty sure, unless Amazon is your publisher, then the author is responsible for fixing formatting errors. It starts at location 279, when dialogue lines from two speakers sit in same paragraph, and then later page numbers (from p49) come in and break up sentences. These page numbers should have been removed before conversion. The story is so good that I will persist. But you might be better off not having a kindle version until it is fixed. Before any bad reviews, because people will not buy it, which would be a shame. It is hard to read when the dialogue lines run together. If you do decide to reformat, you might want to think about taking the quotes off Martin’s thoughts, the words he doesn’t say aloud. Some authors put these in italics or leave them plain. By the way, I’m using kindle for PC as I don’t have a kindle. Another thing, when I first opened the book, the font was huge and that hasn’t happened on any other kindle book for me.

        Let me know what happens. It’s such an excellent story, it’s a shame to let formatting ruin it.

        Please delete this conversation. I couldn’t find any other way to contact you. My email chris338 at bigpond dot net dot au.

        This has really alarmed me for when it comes to self publishing my book. 🙂 I’ve heard of the formatting nightmare. Everything must be spot on before conversion.

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