Saturday, December 17, 2005

St Sebastian d 287 (The Gay Saint)

St. Sebastian (d. 287)
Although he has had various embodiments throughout history--plague saint in the Middle Ages, shimmering youth of Apollonian beauty throughout the Renaissance, "decadent" androgyne in the late nineteenth century--Sebastian has long been known as the homosexual's saint.
Precisely when and how this role evolved may be related to details of St. Sebastian's life, the earliest reference to which can be found in the Martyrology of 354 A.D., which refers to him as a young nobleman from either Milan or Narbonne, whose official capacity was commander of a company of archers of the imperial bodyguard.
According to the Church's official Acta Sanctorum, Sebastian, serving under the emperors Diocletian and Maximian, came to the rescue of Christian soldiers, Marcellinus and Mark, and thereby confessed his own Christianity. Diocletian insisted that Sebastian be shot to death by his fellow archers; these orders were followed, and Sebastian was left for dead.
What is often neglected in later accounts is that Sebastian survived this initial attack after having been nursed by a "pious woman," Irene. Diocletian was required to order a second execution, and this time Sebastian was beaten to death by soldiers in the Hippodrome.
These details--based on accounts written centuries after Sebastian's death and therefore largely apocryphal--may have helped form Sebastian's subsequent reputation as a homosexual martyr since his story constitutes a kind of "coming out" tale followed by his survival of an execution that may be read symbolically as a penetration.
Possibly his role as a plague saint may have generated associations between Sebastian and what, in a nineteenth-century medical context, was represented as a disease, homosexuality.

In the Renaissance, Sebastian emerged as an extraordinarily popular subject for painters, perhaps rivaled only by Jesus and Mary; he was especially prized by artists who saw in the young saint a figure of Hellenic loveliness. Numerous painters--Tintoretto, Mantegna, Titian, Guido Reni, Giorgione, Perugino, Botticelli, Bazzi ("Il Sodoma")--recast Sebastian as a martyr beatifically receptive to his arrow-ridden fate.
There is some evidence to suggest that St. Sebastian fostered homoerotic implications in the Renaissance; in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (1600), for example, the character of Sebastian, saved from a shipwreck by Antonio, is the intense focus of Antonio's love: "And to his image, which methought did promise / Most venerable worth, did I devotion."
So, da gays get a saint too? I wonder what Vatican city has to say about that? Fact is, gays and the church go way back. For example, what's all the fucking fuss over gay marriage, anyway? The church had honored same sex unions dating back to the 12th century. YES! See this.


Unknown said...

Oh - that last pic is hot!

Nick said...

Well, what are your sources, if I may ask? Please email me your response: