How to recognize these 5 Christian martyrs in paintings

How to recognize these 5 Christian martyrs in paintings
The martyrs Maximus and Theodotus of Adrianopolis, c. 985
Christian martyrs are often remembered through grim attributes that serve as poignant reminders of the agonizing ordeal they endured due to their faith.

1. Saint Laurence

Patron saint of cooks, chefs, and comedians

Burned on a rack

As he endured the excruciating torment of being cooked, the story goes that he turned to his tormentors and calmly uttered:

“I’m done on this side, flip me over”
Francisco de Zurbarán,"Saint Laurence"(1636)

2. Saint Sebastian

Patron saint of soldiers, archers, and plague

Shot by arrows

His survival from a rain of arrows did little to sway the Roman emperor who had issued his death sentence. He was then brutally beaten, and his lifeless body cast aside into a sewer.

Tommaso,"Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian"(15th century)

3. Saint Catherine

Patron saint of girls, students, philosophers, and craftsmen working with wheels

Breaking wheel

Initially condemned to the breaking wheel, she left onlookers astounded when the wheel disintegrated at her mere touch. As the execution proceeded with a beheading, legend has it that instead of blood, a milk-like substance flowed from her severed neck...

Caravaggio,"Saint Catherine of Alexandria"(1598)

4. Saint Peter Martyr

Patron saint of inquisitors and midwives

Murdered by cleaver

Vengeful Venetian nobles hired his assassins in response to Peter's persecution of heretics.

Pedro Berruguete,"Saint Peter the Martyr"(c. 1493-1499)

5. Saint Lucy

Patron saint of the blind

Eyes removed

Paschasius commanded his guards to remove her eyes when she prophesied his impending punishment. Another version has Lucy taking her own eyes out in order to discourage a persistent suitor who was captivated by them.

Domenico Beccafumi,"Saint Lucy"(1521)


A shared symbol among all martyrs is the palm leaf of victory, reminiscent of what Greek or Roman athletes received upon winning sporting contests. Martyrs are victorious in death, reborn in Heaven.

Spot a palm leaf - Spot a martyr!