January 20th is the feast day of Saint Sebastian–my Confirmation Saint. He was a soldier in the Roman army who was posted to a tree and shot full of arrows for his faith. Left for dead, he was nursed back to health by the widow Irene. According to Catholic.org,

Soon after, Sebastian intercepted the Emperor, denounced him for his cruelty to Christians, and was beaten to death on the Emperor’s orders.

Inside the Church of St. Sebastian in Rome, Italy:

The arrows are relics. My favorite depiction of Sebastian.

And my second favorite, by Jean-Jacques Henner (1889).
Though Sebastian himself looks lovely here–vulnerable, stoic, ethereal–my favorite thing about this is the women attending. Dressed in black cloaks, as much apart of the night sky as anything else. It’s as though they’ve materialized in the blackness, or whipped in on some dark wind, to Sebastian’s side.

Tablet from the same.

I also came across this delightful derivation. It looks Edward Gorey-esque!

Titled, “Saint Sebastian, Eaten by Bats”

And though it’s not directly related to Saint Sebastian, enjoy this flickr stream: Memento Mori in Saint Sebastian’s Cemetery (Salzburg, Austria) for some truly excellent carvings and other mementos of death.


  1. wonderful post. I like how you’ve given us a large variety of treatments of the same theme. I agree that the oldest painting with the attending widows has the most drama and visual variety–(my god, now those are what I call WIDOWS, with a capital ‘W’! ) Their utter blackness makes him look like alabaster. I’m going to check out the flckr stream ‘Memento Mori’ thank you

    • I was drawn to that one especially, too. The holy water font with the bat-winged skull is a favorite, too–I’d be nervous to dip my hand in that, I think!

  2. my favorite rendition of St. Sebastian is not so dark … by Odilon Redon (the one at the Nat’l Gallery, where Sebastian is looking stage left?), but that’s a personal preference for the artist. and, holy crap, i lived around the corner from that cemetery for six weeks. it was very odd to go into the cemetery from a very bustling, busy street and find quiet.

    • I looked it up! The colors and textures in Redon’s Sebastian are impressive.
      Also, super jealous that you got to meet St. Sebastian cemetery in person! That’s exactly how cemeteries should be I think–a bit of quiet and reflection to punctuate the kinetics of routine life.

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