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    Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

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    Andrea Mantegna

    Saint Sebastian

    In the 13th century Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa collects over 180 stories of the saints and puts them together in the Legenda Aurea. In doing so he creates the most popular religious book among the people of the Middle Ages.

    It includes the legend of St. Sebastian, whose story takes place in the 3rd century at the time of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. From humble beginnings, his diligence and determination advance him to captain of the Praetorian Guard. But when he publicly converts to Christianity his master sentences him to death. The firing squad are the imperial archers. By a miracle Sebastian, shot through by arrows, survives and as soon as he has recovered he continues his missionary work.

    Subsequently Diocletian has him beaten to death and his body thrown into the Cloaca Maxima, Rome’s ‘greatest sewer’. According to legend he is buried by Christians in the catacombs on the Appian Way. In the 4th century the San Sebastiano church is erected above him, which today houses the relic of Christ’s footprint.