Early Christian Martyrs in Art Photos

Early Christians were persecuted and martyred, reaching a height (c303-312) under directions of Roman leaders Diocletian & Galerius. During the early years all the martyred were automatically named as saints. Their visual attributes usually relate to their method of martyrdom or a miracle they facilitated. The official killing of Christians stopped when Emperor Constantine recognized Christianity in the Edict of Milan in 313.

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St Stephen

(martyred c34)
Attrib. 3 stones
First Christian martyr. As a deacon appointed by the Apostles, he denounced Jewish authorities & was stoned to death. St Stephen painting by Domenico Feti of Italy at Memorial Art Gallery. Rochester, NY Stoning of St Stephen painting by Rembrandt van Rijn at Beaux-Arts Museum. Lyon, France
St Cecilia

(martyred c230)
Attrib. hand organ - patron saint of music.
Arrested for burying martyred Christians. St Cecilia painting by Jacques Stella at Museum of Fine Arts of Rennes. Rennes, France St Cecilia painting from Mexico at San Antonio Museum of Art. San Antonio, TX
St Sebastian

(martyred 3rd C)
Attrib. pierced by arrows.
An officer in Roman army, his Christianity was discovered & he was to be killed by arrows. Left for dead, he recovered, but was later beaten to death. upon orders of Emperor Diocletian. St Sebastian painting by Andrea Mantegna at Kunsthistorisches Museum. Vienna, Austria Martyrdom of St Sebastian painting by Jan de Beer at Kunsthistorisches Museum. Vienna, Austria
St Christopher

(died c251)
Attrib. Christ Child on shoulder of giant crossing torrent.
Giant who carried travelers across river. When he carried Christ Child, he also bore the weight of the world resting on Christ's shoulders. Portuguese tile mural of St Christopher at San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission. Carmel, CA St Sebastian & St Christopher painting by Lorenzo Lotto at Berlin Gemaldegalerie. Berlin, Germany
St Lawrence

(martyred 258)
Attrib. grid-iron / grill.
As Emperor persecuted Christians, Lawrence sold church holdings & gave money to poor, not to Rome. In retaliation, Lawrence was roasted on a red-hot grill. Martyrdom of St Lawrence tempera painting by Mariotto di Nardo of Florence at RISD Museum. Providence, RI Oak choir stall carved with St Laurence in Unterlinden Museum. Colmar, France
St Denis

(martyred 258)
Attrib. carrying his severed head.
First Bishop of Paris, beheaded & carried his own head to north end of Paris. Statue of St Denis holding his severed head on Cathedral. Reims, France St Denis painting attrib. Nicolas Poussin at Rouen Museum of Fine Arts. Rouen, France
St Agatha

(martyred 251)
Attrib. breasts on plate & pincers.
Venerated for steadfast faith despite torture while resisting tyrant's attempt to force her to work in brothel. St Catherine of Alexandria & St Agatha tempera painting by Giovanni di Paolo from Siena at Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, NY Martyrdom of St Agatha painting by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo at Berlin Gemaldegalerie. Berlin, Germany
St Agnes

(martyred 304)
Attrib. lamb
Behead for refusal to give up faith & purity when sent to brothel. St Agnes stained glass window from Swabia at The Cloisters. New York, NY Wings of Three Kings altar with St Catherine & St Agnes painting by Hans Baldung Grien at Berlin Gemaldegalerie. Berlin, Germany
St Barbara

(4th C?)
Attrib. tower
Tortured & imprisoned in a tower by her father for refusal give up purity to marry. Wooden statue of St Barbara with her tower from upper Rhine in Unterlinden Museum. Colmar, France Detail of St Barbara with tower painted on altar from Egrus at Schleswig Holstein State Museum. Schleswig, Germany
St Catherine of Alexandria

(martyred c310)
Attrib. Broken torture wheel with spikes, sword.
Condemned by Emperor Maxentius to die on spiked wheel after she denounced him for persecution of Christians, but the wheel miraculously broke. She was beheaded instead. Martyrdom of St Catherine of Alexandria painting one of four panels by Hans Holbein Elder in Municipal Art Gallery at Schaezler Palace. Augsburg, Germany St Clair & St Catherine altarpiece by Miquel Nadal & Pere Garcia de Benavarri at Barcelona Cathedral. Barcelona, Spain
St Dorothy

(martyred c303)
Attrib. basket of flowers & fruit.
Refused to worship Roman gods. Before execution lawyer mocked her to send fruit from her garden of heaven. Before execution a basket of fruit & roses appeared, which made lawyer convert. St Dorothea statue from St Stephan of Vienna at Historical Museum of City of Vienna. Vienna, Austria St Dorothy of Cappadocia painting by José Joaquín Esquivel of Mexico at San Antonio Museum of Art. San Antonio, TX
St Eulalia

(martyred c303)
Attrib. X-shaped cross; stake & dove.
Criticized Roman governor in Spain for persecution of Christians & was herself crucified. Martyrdom of St Eulalia painting by Bernat Martorell at Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. Barcelona, Spain St Eulalia panel from St Clair & St Catherine altarpiece by Miquel Nadal & Pere Garcia de Benavarri at Barcelona Cathedral. Barcelona, Spain
St Lucy

(martyred 304)
Attrib. sword on neck, eyes on plate, candle.
Vowing to live as a chaste Christian, she was turned in by man to whom she had been promised. She miraculously escaped several executions. Scenes from martyrdom of St Lucia painting from church of St Lucia de Mur at Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. Barcelona, Spain St Lucy painting by Francesco del Cossa of Ferrarese at National Gallery of Art. Washington, DC
St Margaret

Attrib. dragon at her feet.
In prison as a Christian, swallowed by devil in dragon-form, but disgorged her because of her cross. She survived fire & drowning, but was beheaded. St Margaret painting by Raphael at Kunsthistorisches Museum. Vienna, Austria Wood carving of St Margaret with dragon devil from Austrian South Tirol at The Cloisters. New York, NY
Sts Cosmas and Damian

(martyred c303)
Attrib. box or vials of ointment.
Twin brother medical doctors who as Christians were tortured & beheaded and credited with miracle cures after death. Sts Cosmas & Damian painting from Altar of St Lawrence Church in Nuremberg by Hans Süß von Kulmbach at Germanisches Nationalmuseum. Nuremberg, Germany Martyrdom of Sts Cosmas & Damian with their Three Brothers painting by a Northern French artist at Brooklyn Museum. Brooklyn, NY
St Florian

(martyred c304)
Attrib. building on fire.
Roman officer who was Christian, turned himself in to face execution by drowning. Invoked to keep buildings from fire. Recovery of Florian's body panel from St Florian Legend cycle of paintings by Albrecht Altdorfer at Germanisches Nationalmuseum. Nuremberg, Germany Statue of St Florian, patron saint of firefighters, at Miramont Castle. Manitou Springs, CO
St George

(martyred c303)
Attrib. Armoured knight slaying dragon.
Fought in Palestine, he became symbol of knighthood. Said to have rescued princess from dragon. Saint George Slaying the Dragon painting by unknown German at Orleans Beaux Arts Museum. Orleans, France Stained glass window of St George slaying dragon in chapel at Glamis Castle. Angus, Scotland

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All photos on this page are originals by & copyrighted by Jim Steinhart.
All rights reserved. Permission required to use.