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 in Slavic Christianity. [2] While early icons show the saints in "classicizing" or anachronistic attire, icons from the 11th and especially the 12th centuries, painted in the new style of τύπων μιμήματα (“imitating nature”), are an important source of knowledge on 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.



(NB: Some saints on the list remain unclassified as of 2021)

ImageName Martyrdom LocationChurch Patronage
Agathius-Acacius-Acacio-martyrdom.jpg Agathius 303 Byzantium Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church Soldiers
Adrien.jpg Adrian of Nicomedia 306 Nicomedia Catholic Church, Coptic Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox Church Arm dealers, royal guard, soldiers
SaintAndrewStratelates.jpeg Andrew the General 300 Taurus Mountains Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church Army, commander, general, soldiers, stratelates
Michael of salonica.jpg Demetrius of Thessaloniki 306 Thessaloniki Anglicanism, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheranism, Oriental Orthodox Churches Crusades, soldiers
St-barbara.jpg Barbara 267 Aglipayan, Anglicanism, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches Artillery, combat engineer, [6] missileers including those of the Strategic Rocket Forces, the Missile and Artillery Forces, and the Air Defense Forces, Space Forces and the United States Army Field Artillery and Air Defense Artillery Branches
'Saint Cornelius and Angel', stained glass lancet windows by Tiffany Studios, c. 1910.JPG Cornelius the Centurion Pre-Congregation unknown Anglican Communion, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church Centurion
Hans Suss von Kulmbach (zugeschr.) - Heiliger Georg.jpg George 303 Nicomedia in Bithynia Anglicanism, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheranism, Oriental Orthodox Churches Patronages
SaintGereonoakpanel.jpg Gereon 304 Cologne Catholic Church, Coptic Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox Church Knight
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo - St Jacobus in Budapest.jpg James the Great 44 Jerusalem Anglicanism, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheranism, Oriental Orthodox Churches Conquistador, Knights, Military Archbishopric of Spain
Albert Lynch - Jeanne d'Arc.jpg Joan of Arc 1431 Rouen, Normandy Catholic Military personnel, US Women's Army Corps, WAVES
Ignatius of Loyola (militant).jpg Ignatius of Loyola 1556 Rome, Papal States Anglican Communion, Catholic Military Ordinariate of the Philippines
Mathis Gothart Grunewald 011.jpg Maurice 287 Agaunum in Alpes Poeninae et Graiae Catholic Church, Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches Alpine troops, Swiss Guard
Saint Martin Grandes Heures Anne de Bretagne XVIe.jpg Martin of Tours 397 [7] Candes-Saint-Martin, Gaul Catholic Conscientious objector, infantrymen
Maximilian of Tebessa 295 Tébessa, Numidia Anglicanism, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheranism, Oriental Orthodox Churches Conscientious objector
Byzantine icon St-Mercurius 1295.jpg Mercurius 250 Caesarea in Cappadocia Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches
Anonimo - San Miguel Arcangel, 1708.jpg Michael the Archangel Anglicanism, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheranism, Oriental Orthodox Churches Military; paratroopers; policemen. [8]
Virgen del Carmen.JPG Our Lady of Mount Carmel 1226 [9] Catholic Spanish Navy, [10] [11] Nuclear disarmament
Our Lady of Loreto.jpg Our Lady of Loretto Catholic Airmen [12]
Ioannes XXIII, by De Agostini, 1958-1963.jpg Pope John XXIII Catholic Italian Army [13]
Sebastia.jpg Sebastian 288Italy Aglipayan, Anglicanism, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches Soldiers, infantrymen, archers, municipal police
Sergius and Bacchus (Menologion of Basil II).jpg Sergius and Bacchus 306 Resafa and Barbalissos in Mesopotamia Assyrian Church of the East, Catholic Church, Coptic Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches Army, general officer
Theodore Tyro.jpg Theodore of Amasea 306Amasea Amasya in Helenopontus Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church Military
Typasius 304 Tigava, Mauretania Caesariensis Veteran
Vardan Mamikonyan 3.jpeg Vardan Mamikonian 451 Avarayr Plain, Vaspurakan, Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church, Armenian Catholic Church, Armenian Evangelical Church Knight
Varus, and with him six monk-martyrs (Menologion of Basil II).jpg Varus 307 Alexandria Coptic Churches Prison officer, soldier
Museo del Duomo - Milan - St Victor - Milanese sculptor (last decade of 15th century).jpg Victor Maurus 303 Milan Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheranism Soldier
Fortymartyrs.jpg Forty Martyrs of Sebaste 320 Sebaste

Eastern Orthodox Church

In the Romanian Orthodox Church:

Michael the Archangel: protector of the Romanian Army, and, as the patron saint of Michael the Brave and as the symbol of the Romanian victory in the Great War, the protector of the unity of all Romanians.

Saint George: patron of the Romanian Land Forces

Saint Elijah: patron of the Romanian Air Forces

Virgin Mary: patron of the Romanian Naval Forces

The Russian Orthodox Church:

See also

Related Research Articles

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Saint George 4th-century Christian saint and martyr

Saint George, also George of Lydda, was a Christian who is venerated as a saint in Christianity. According to tradition he was a soldier in the Roman army. His parents were Christians of Greek origin. His father, Gerontius, was a Cappadocian serving in the Roman army. His mother, Polychronia, was a Christian from the city of Lod in Palestine. Saint George was a soldier of Cappadocian Greek and Palestinian origins, member of the Praetorian Guard for Roman emperor Diocletian, who was sentenced to death for refusing to recant his Christian faith. He became one of the most venerated saints and megalomartyrs in Christianity, and he has been especially venerated as a military saint since the Crusades.

Saint George and the Dragon Medieval legend

The legend of Saint George and the Dragon tells of Saint George taming and slaying a dragon that demanded human sacrifices. The story goes that the dragon originally exhorted tribute from the villagers. When they ran out of livestock and trinkets for the dragon, they started giving up a human tribute once a year. This was acceptable to the villagers until a well-loved princess was chosen as the next offering. The saint thereupon rescues the princess chosen as the next offering. The narrative was first set in Cappadocia in the earliest sources of the 11th and 12th centuries, but transferred to Libya in the 13th-century Golden Legend.

Michael (archangel) Archangel in Jewish, Christian and Islamic teachings

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Demetrius of Thessaloniki Christian martyr

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Uriel ; or Auriel also Oriel is the name of one of the archangels who is mentioned in the post-exilic rabbinic tradition and in certain Christian traditions. He is well known in the Russian Orthodox tradition and recognized in the Anglican Church as the 4th archangel. He is also well known in European esoteric medieval literature.

Theodore of Amasea

Saint Theodore of Amasea is one of the two recognized saints called Theodore who are venerated as warrior saints and Great Martyrs in the Catholic Churches and Orthodox Churches. He is also known as Theodore Tyron. The other saint of the same name is Theodore Stratelates, also known as Theodore of Heraclea, but this second St Theodore may never have had a separate existence. When the epithet is omitted, the reference is usually to St Theodore of Amasea.

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Theodore Stratelates Early 4th century Christian martyr and saint

Theodore Stratelates, also known as Theodore of Heraclea (281-319), was a martyr and Warrior Saint venerated with the title Great-martyr in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Eastern Catholic and Roman Catholic Churches and Oriental Orthodox Churches.

Saint George in devotions, traditions and prayers

Saint George is one of Christianity's most popular saints, and is highly honored by both the Western and Eastern Churches. A wide range of devotions, traditions, and prayers to honor the saint have emerged throughout the centuries. He has for long been distinguished by the title of "The Great Martyr" and is one of the most popular saints to be represented in icons. Devotions to Saint George have a large following among Christians, and a large number of churches are dedicated to him worldwide.

Saint Michael in the Catholic Church

Saint Michael the Archangel is referenced in the Old Testament and has been part of Christian teachings since the earliest times. In Catholic writings and traditions he acts as the defender of the Church and chief opponent of Satan, and assists people at the hour of death.

Saint Barbara

Saint Barbara, known in the Eastern Orthodox Church as the Great Martyr Barbara, was an early Christian Lebanese and Greek saint and martyr. Accounts place her in the 3rd century in Heliopolis Phoenicia, present-day Baalbek, Lebanon. There is no reference to her in the authentic early Christian writings nor in the original recension of Saint Jerome's martyrology. Despite the legends detailing her story, the earliest references to her supposed 3rd-century life do not appear until the 7th century, and veneration of her was common, especially in the East, from the 9th century.


The Michaelion was one of the earliest and most famous sanctuaries dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel in the Roman Empire. According to tradition, it was built in the 4th century by Emperor Constantine the Great over an ancient pagan temple, and was located just north of Constantinople, in the village of Sosthenion on the European shore of the Bosphorus strait.

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Archangel Michael in Christian art

Archangel Michael may be depicted in Christian art alone or with other angels such as Gabriel or saints. Some depictions with Gabriel date back to the 8th century, e.g. the stone casket at Notre Dame de Mortain church in France. He is very often present in scenes of the Last Judgement, but few other specific scenes, so most images including him are devotional rather than narrative. The angel who rescues Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the "fiery furnace" in the Book of Daniel Chapter 3 is usually regarded in Christian tradition as Michael; this is sometimes represented in Early Christian art and Eastern Orthodox icons, but rarely in later art of the Western church.


  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. approved by Pope Honorius III
  10. Endorsed by Cristóbal Colón, 14th Duke of Veragua
  11. "Portal Cultura de Defensa". Ministerio de Defensa.
  12. Ministerio de Defensa, Portal Cultura de Defensa. "Santos Patrones de las FAS y la Guardía Civil".
  13. Marco Roncalli (6 September 2017). "San Giovanni XXIII sarà patrono dell'Esercito". La Stampa. Retrieved 7 September 2017.