Military saint

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Four Military Saints by Michael Damaskinos (16th century, Benaki Museum), showing St George and St Theodore Teron on the left, and St Demetrios and St Theodore Stratelates on the right, all on horseback, with angels holding wreaths over their heads, beneath Christ Pantokrator. Damaskenos Michael - Four military saints - Google Art Project.jpg
Four Military Saints by Michael Damaskinos (16th century, Benaki Museum), showing St George and St Theodore Teron on the left, and St Demetrios and St Theodore Stratelates on the right, all on horseback, with angels holding wreaths over their heads, beneath Christ Pantokrator.
Triptych of the Bogomater flanked by Saints George and Demetrius as horsemen (dated 1754) Mary with George and Dimitry (Greese, 1754) 2.jpg
Triptych of the Bogomater flanked by Saints George and Demetrius as horsemen (dated 1754)

The military saints, warrior saints and soldier saints are patron saints, martyrs and other saints associated with the military. They were originally composed of the Early Christians who were soldiers in the Roman Army during the persecution of Christians, especially the Diocletian persecution of AD 303313.


Most of the Early Christian military saints were soldiers of the Roman Empire who had become Christian and, after refusing to participate in Imperial cult rituals of loyalty to the Roman Emperor, were subjected to corporal punishment including torture and martyrdom.

Veneration of these saints, most notably of Saint George, was reinforced in the Latin Church during the time of the Crusades. The title of "champion of Christ" (athleta Christi) was originally used for these saints, but in the late medieval period also conferred on contemporary rulers by the Pope.[ citation needed ]

Since the Middle Ages, more saints have been added for various military-related patronages.


In Late Antiquity other Christian writers of hagiography, like Sulpicius Severus in his account of the heroic, military life of Martin of Tours, created a literary model that reflected the new spiritual, political, and social ideals of a post-Roman society. In a study of Anglo-Saxon soldier saints (Damon 2003), J.E. Damon has demonstrated the persistence of Sulpicius's literary model in the transformation of the pious, peaceful saints and willing martyrs of late antique hagiography to the Christian heroes of the early Middle Ages, who appealed to the newly converted societies led by professional warriors and who exemplified accommodation with and eventually active participation in holy wars that were considered just. [1]


The military saints are characteristically depicted as soldiers in traditional Byzantine iconography from about the 10th century (Macedonian dynasty) and especially also in Slavic Christianity. [2] While early icons show the saints in "classicizing" attire, icons from the 11th and especially the 12th centuries, painted in the new style of τύπων μιμήματα (imitating nature), are an important source for our knowledge of medieval Byzantine military equipment. [3]

The angelic prototype of the Christian soldier-saint is the Archangel Michael, whose earliest known cultus began in the 5th century with a shrine at Monte Gargano. The iconography of soldier-saints Theodore and George as cavalrymen develops in the early medieval period. The earliest image of St Theodore as a horseman (named in Latin) is from Vinica, North Macedonia and, if genuine, dates to the 6th or 7th century. Here, Theodore is not slaying a dragon, but holding a draco standard. Three equestrian saints, Demetrius, Theodore and George, are depicted in the "Zoodochos Pigi" chapel in central Macedonia in Greece, in the prefecture of Kilkis, near the modern village of Kolchida, dated to the 9th or 10th century. [4] The "dragon-slaying" motif develops in the 10th century, especially iconography seen in the Cappadocian cave churches of Göreme, where frescoes of the 10th century show military saints on horseback confronting serpents with one, two or three heads. [5] In later medieval Byzantine iconography, the pair of horsemen is no longer identified as Theodore and George, but as George and Demetrius.

List of military saints


(Although some on the list remains unclassified as of 2019)

ImageName Martyrdom LocationChurch Patronage
Acacius c. 303 Byzantium
Adrian of Nicomedia Guards, soldiers; arms dealers[ citation needed ]
Andrew the General c. 300 Cilicia
Michael of salonica.jpg Demetrius of Thessaloniki 304 Sirmium
Barbara Catholic, Russian Orthodox Artillerymen, military engineers, [6] missileers including those of the Strategic Rocket Forces, the Missile and Artillery Forces, and the Air Defense Forces, Space Forces.
Cecilia Bandsmen
Emeterius and Chelidonius c. 300 Calagurris in Hispania Tarraconensis
Evstafi Plakida.jpg Eustace
Expeditus c. 303 Melitene, Cappadocia
Florian c. 303 Lauriacum in Noricum
Paolo Uccello 050.jpg George c. 303 Nicomedia in Bithynia Patronages
SaintGereonoakpanel.jpg Gereon c. 304
James the Great Catholic Knights and Cavalry
Joan of Arc France Catholic Soldiers [ citation needed ]
Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Soldiers[ citation needed ]
Mathis Gothart Grunewald 011.jpg Maurice and
the Theban Legion
287 Agaunum in Alpes Poeninae et Graiae
Saint Martin Grandes Heures Anne de Bretagne XVIe.jpg Martin of Tours [7] Soldiers (infantrymen)
Maximilian 295 Tebessa in Africa Proconsularis
Marcellus of Tangier 298 Tingis in Mauretania Tingitana
Saint mina bulgaria icon.gif Menas c. 309 Cotyaeum in Phrygia
Mercurius 250 Caesarea in Cappadocia
Michael the Archangel Catholic Military; paratroopers; policemen. [8]
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Sailors [9]
Our Lady of Loretto Catholic Airmen [10]
Sebastian Soldiers, infantrymen, archers, municipal police
Sergius and Bacchus c. 305 Resafa and Barbalissus in Syria Euphratensis
Theodore of Amasea 306 Amasea in Helenopontus
Typasius the Veteran 304 Tigava in Mauretania Caesariensis
Vardan 387 Armenia
Varus c. 307 Egypt
Victor the Moor c. 303 Milan in Italy
Nikita Martyr (16th c., Yaroslavl museum).jpg Nicetas the Goth 372 Dacia
Forty Martyrs of Sebaste 320 Sebaste

Eastern Orthodox Church

To be included above The Eastern Orthodox Church considers Demetrius of Thessaloniki, Theodore Stratelates, Theodore of Amasea, and John the Warrior to be the patron saints of the military. [11] Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of the Russian navy; all naval cathedrals are dedicated to this saint. Finally Prophet Elijah is the patron Saint of the Hellenic Army Aviation Arm.

The Russian Orthodox Church has a number of patron saints associated with the military. Some of them are the same or similar to Catholic saints. [12] [13]

Barbara: missileers including those of the Strategic Rocket Forces, the Missile and Artillery Forces, and the Air Defense Forces, Space Forces.

See also

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  1. Damon, John Edward. Soldier Saints and Holy Warriors: Warfare and Sanctity in the Literature of Early England. (Burlington (VT): Ashgate Publishing Company), 2003, ISBN   0-7546-0473-X
  2. "The 'warrior saints' or 'military saints' can be distinguished from the huge host of martyrs by the pictorial convention of cladding them in military attire." (Grotowski 2010:2)
  3. (Grotowski 2010:400)
  4. Melina Paissidou, "Warrior Saints as Protectors of the Byzantine Army in the Palaiologan Period: the Case of the Rock-cut Hermitage in Kolchida (Kilkis Prefecture)", in: Ivanka Gergova Emmanuel Moutafov (eds.), ГЕРОИ • КУЛТОВЕ • СВЕТЦИ / Heroes Cults Saints Sofija (2015), 181-198.
  5. Paul Stephenson, The Serpent Column: A Cultural Biography, Oxford University Press (2016), 179182.
  6. "Patron Saints: M - Saints & Angels - Catholic Online". Retrieved 2015-12-30.
  7. Martin is not a martyr, and not a classical military saint. He came to be venerated as "military saint" in 19th to 20th-century French nationalism due to his successful promotion as such during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/1. Brennan, Brian, The Revival of the Cult of Martin of Tours in the Third Republic (1997).
  8. "St. Michael, the Archangel - Saints & Angels - Catholic Online". Retrieved 2012-12-27.
  9. "Portal Cultura de Defensa". Ministerio de Defensa.
  10. Ministerio de Defensa, Portal Cultura de Defensa. "Santos Patrones de las FAS y la Guardía Civil".
  12. "Patron Saints of the Military - in Russian". Retrieved 2018-01-05.
  13. "Patron Saints - Catholic and Orthodox - in Russian". Retrieved 2018-01-05.