St. Sebastian is shot with arrows

Pocket Bard’s notes: I’m not sure I could actually turn this one into a good story, but it’s so famous and archetypal that I figured I’d include it in my collection of stories. I particularly like how there’s no mention of whether Sebastian was still full of arrows when he rebukes the emperors a few days later, and I think it would be hilarious if he was.

St. Sebastian is shot with arrows
The Golden Legend, Volume I, trans. William Granger Ryan, p.100

After all this, the prefect denounced Saint Sebastian to the emperor Diocletian, who summoned the saint and said to him: “I have always had you among the first in my palace, and all this time you have been acting secretly against my welfare and offending the gods.” Sebastian: “I have always worshipped God who is in heaven, and prayed to Christ for your salvation and the good estate of the Roman Empire.” But Diocletian gave the command to tie him to a post in the center of the camp, and ordered the soldiers to shoot him full of arrows. They shot so many arrows into his body that he looked like a porcupine, and left him for dead. Miraculously set free, he stood on the steps of the imperial palace a few days later and, as the emperors came out, firmly reproached them for their cruel treatment of Christians. “Isn’t this the Sebastian whom we ordered shot to death?” the emperors exclaimed. Sebastian answered: “The Lord deigned to revive me so that I could meet you and rebuke you for the evils you inflict on the servants of Christ!” The emperors then ordered him to be beaten with cudgels until he died, and had his body thrown into the sewer to prevent the Christians from honoring him as a martyr. The following night Saint Sebastian appeared to Saint Lucina, revealed to her where his body was, and asked that it be buried near the remains of the apostles, which was done. Sebastian suffered under the emperors Dicoletian and Maximian, whose reign began about the year of the Lord 287.



  1. Desmond Reid said,

    November 16, 2012 at 7:57 am

    The Latin text has “ericius”, meaning” hedgehog”. There are no porcupines in Europe. Ryan’s translation was inaccurate.

    It was three months after recovering from his ordeal with the firing squad of archers that Sebastian confronted the Emperor, and rebuked him for persecuting Christians, while the emperor was celebrating his birthday at the temple of Hercules in Rome and was then beaten to death for his pains.

    There is a wonderful 1884 Victorian novel by His Eminence Cardinal Wiseman,called “Fabiola, Or the Church of the Catacombs” which contains a good deal of information about Sebastian and his era and is still well worth reading.

    The history and development of the image of Sebastian in art can be accessed by reading Detlev von Hadeln’s “Hl. Sebastian in der Italienischen Malerei”, 1906 or “Sebastian Renascent” by Jacques Darriulat, Paris, 1998

    For thise interested in even more images of Sebastian’s there are about 7,000 pictures of Sebastian on this web site –

    Sebastian is a remarkable saint, recognized and venerated even today.

    • pocketbard said,

      November 16, 2012 at 10:26 am

      Great information! Thanks!

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