Monday, December 05, 2011

Saint Sebastian

I am currently enjoying a DVD course from The Great Courses entitled World's Greatest Paintings by Professor William Kloss. Professor Kloss is superb and I am learning so much from his passionate lectures.
by Ter Brugghen
Today's lecture included three artists, including a painting by Ter Brugghen of St Sebastian titled St Sebastian Tended by Irene. As a Protestant, I am not familiar with the stories of many of the saints and see that many works of art are based on their lives. So, I am trying to become more familiar with their stories. I read several articles about St Sebastian, but the most interesting piece I found was at Tom Reeder's Blog, which is both informative and humorous.
by Boticelli

St Sebastian lived in Rome during the third century. He was a bodyguard for the Emperor, Diocletian. (Side note: Diocletian appointed 3 other co-emperors and each of them ended up ruling 1/4th of Roman Empire as Tetrarchs.)
Diocletian persecuted Christians and Sebastian was visiting them in prison. He was also converting other sodiers to Christianity. When Diocletian found out, he ordered that Sebastian be tied to a post and executed by archers.
by Il Sodoma

However, Sebastian did not die from his wounds, according to the stories. He was nursed back to health by a lady later known as St Irene. After he was healed, Sebastian confronted Diocletian and, this time, Diocletian made sure that Sebastian was killed by clubbing.
by Andrea Mantegna
Sebastian became a saint and was later called upon during several plagues, including the Plague of Justinian. This Plague started in about AD 540 and ended in AD 590 after killing 25 to 100 million people -  possibly half the population of Europe. It was said that "the random nature of infection with the Black Death caused people to liken the plague to their villages being shot by an army of nature’s archers. In desperation, they prayed for the intercession of a saint associated with archers, and Saint Sebastian became associated with the plague." (quote from link from fisheaters site titled Symbols of the Saints in Art.)

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