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Martyrdom

christian art martyrs deaths

Martyr is the Greek term for “witness” and initially was used for the *apostles who witnessed the deeds of and testified to the *Resurrection of *Christ. However, and especially during the periods of Roman persecution, martyrs became those *saints who suffered for and were put to *death for their steadfast dedication to the Christian faith. The sufferings and deaths of early Christian and later martyrs are frequently represented in medieval art, and the visual catalogue of gruesome tortures and grisly deaths is lengthy. Stonings and decapitations are common, and martyrdom methods and their portrayal in art range from *crucifixion ) to grilling to flaying (Saint *Bartholomew) to evisceration (Saint *Erasmus) to attacks by sword, spear, or arrows. Unique methods of martyrdom will often serve as identifying attributes for specific saints while shared themes are also prevalent. Related artistic motifs also include burial scenes and the martyrs’ *souls ascending to *heaven. Death dates for martyrs were celebrated as “heavenly birthdays” from the early Christian period (saints’ feast days). Scenes of martyrdom appear in all western medieval and Byzantine art media from the early Christian through late Gothic period.
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