Saint SebastianSaint Sebastian was a Christian martyr who became a popular medieval and Renaissance saint. He served as a Roman soldier in about 300, was discovered to be a Christian and sentenced to death by the Emperor Diocletian. He survived the arrows, which miraculously failed to pierce any vital organ, and which became his identifying attribute, and was stoned to death and thrown into a sewer.
Sebastian's help was sought against plague, the boils and swellings of which were thought to be like the wounds of arrows. He is often shown in altarpieces and other religious images virtually naked and tied to a tree or column, with arrows penetrating his flesh. Sometimes the archers are included in the act of shooting at him.
The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN