Martyr. Patron of soldiers, archers, in time of plague. St Sebastian died during the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian. He was buried on the Appian Way close to the basilica which was named after him.
Little is known about him, but according to legend, he was a soldier from Gaul who enlisted in the Roman army in 283. He was soon made a captain in the Pretorian guard and visited the Christian martyrs Mark and Marcellian in prison. When the Emperor Diocletian learnt that Sebastian was also a Christian, he ordered him to be shot to death with arrows. He recovered from this ordeal but the Emperor then had him beaten to death with clubs.
The earliest images of St Sebastian are in mosaics at Ravenna, and at St Peter in Chains in Rome (7th century). He is also depicted in St Saba's church in Rome (8th century). Most of these depict him as an elderly bearded man. The more familiar image of him tied to a tree and shot with arrows became very popular with artists during the Renaissance.