January 20, 2016

Princeton, NJ. May, 2011

Today is the feast of Saint Sebastian, my favorite saint. Even if he didn't really exist and is only mythical. Sebastian, you'll recall, was a Roman soldier who proclaimed his Christianity in defiance of the anti-Christian Emperor Diocletian. He is usually depicted in art as tied to a laurel tree and shot by many arrows (not the single, strategically placed one as seen here in a painting by the Master of the Greenville Tondo in Princeton University's excellent art museum.) According to legend, however, he was rescued from his tree by Saint Irene and lived long enough to confront Diocletian in person, whereupon Sebastian was clubbed to death, a martyrdom that lends itself less to artistic representation than an arrow-filled demise does. I learned only recently that the faithful of the Sicilian town of Tortorici, who claim Saint Sebastian as their patron, carry laurel trees on their shoulders through the town to commemorate his feast day with a big procession and festival.

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