St. Sebastian

St. Saint Sebastian (c. AD 255 – 288) was an early Christian saint and martyr. He was killed during the Diocletianic Persecution of Christians. He was initially tied to a post or tree and shot with arrows, though this did not kill him. He was, according to tradition, rescued and healed by Saint Irene of Rome, which became a popular subject in 17th-century painting. In all versions of the story, shortly after his recovery he went to Diocletian to warn him about his sins, and as a result was clubbed to death. He is venerated in the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

The oldest record of the details of Sebastian’s martyrdom is found in the Chronograph of 354, which mentions him as a martyr, venerated on January 20. He is also mentioned in a sermon on Psalm 118 by 4th-century bishop Ambrose of Milan (Saint Ambrose): in his sermon, Ambrose stated that Sebastian came from Milan and that he was already venerated there at that time. The full account of his martyrdom comes from the Passio Sancti Sebastiani, a 5th-century text written by an anonymous author, possibily Arnobius the Younger.

Saint Sebastian is a popular male saint, especially today among athletes. In medieval times, he was regarded as a saint with a special ability to intercede to protect from plague, and devotion to him greatly increased when plague was active.

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