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Saint Sebastian

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The martyrdom of Saint Sebastian; oil painting by Giovanni Antonio Bazzi (1477-1548), known as Il Sodoma, "The Sodomite")
The martyrdom of Saint Sebastian; oil painting by Giovanni Antonio Bazzi (1477-1548), known as Il Sodoma, "The Sodomite")

Saint Sebastian is the patron saint of soldiers, plague victims, persecuted Christians, sports, and athletes. Many gay men also see him as their patron, in light of his portrayal as a beautiful athletic man stripped of his clothing. His feast day is celebrated on January 20.

Sebastian was born about 256 C.E. and came from Gallia Narbonensis (now the French provinces of Languedoc and Provence). He joined the Roman army in 283, concealing the fact that he was already a Christian, which was forbidden in the Roman military. By the time of his death he had become a captain of the Praetorian Guard. His faith was discovered, and he was sentenced to be shot to death by archers. He survived and was nursed back to health by Saint Irene of Rome. After his recovery, he harangued Emperor Diocletian for his unwarranted persecution of Christians. In response, the emperor ordered Sebastian to be clubbed to death. He died in Rome about 288 C.E.

Saint Sebastian is usually depicted undergoing his first martyrdom: his clothes have been removed and he is tied to a column, post, or tree, shot through by arrows. in the religion of Cuban Santeria, he, like Saint Norbert, is syncretized with the orisha Ochosi, because arrows are a symbol of Ochosi.

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