Sebastian, martyr - January 20th
St Sebastian (d. 288, Rome, Italy) (Relics: Rome, Italy)
The body of St Sebastian and a major part of the relics of St Gregory the Great are said to have been taken to Soissons, France in 826 AD. Alban Butler in The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints claims that in 1564 these relics were stolen and thrown into a ditch by Calvinists. This tradition then maintains that some of these desecrated relics were recovered and subsequently placed into surrounding churches in that area. Despite this tradition the veneration of their relics in Rome has been maintained for centuries.
First Class Relics
San Sebastiano Fuori Le Mura
(Saint Sebastian Outside the Walls)
Via Appia Antica 136
*This church is southeast of the Aurelian Walls.
*St Sebastian was originally buried in the catacombs located under this church. At some point, however, these remains were removed. Some of these relics are now located within an urn in a chapel on the left side of the nave. This is the chapel with the very impressive statue of St Sebastian created by Giuseppe Giorgetti.
*Directly across from this chapel on the right side of the nave is a reliquary chapel that contains the column to which St Sebastian was tied and an arrow that pierced his flesh. Also within this same reliquary chapel are some small relics said to be from St Peter, St Paul, St Andrew, and a number of other saints including the pope, St Fabian (d. 250). St Fabian was originally buried in the Catacombs of San Callisto but later his remains were moved to this church.
*This church has an ancient tradition connecting it to St Peter and to St Paul. The Depositio Martyrum shows that in the year 258 pilgrims came to San Sebastiano Fuori Le Mura on June 29th, the Feast Day of Saints Peter and Paul, to honor these two great saints. Therefore, it is presumed that at one time this church housed the remains of both St Peter and St Paul.
*Tradition also claims that within the catacombs located under this church St Philip Neri (d. 1595) experienced such an enlargement of his heart due to a supernatural infusion of God’s love that two of his ribs cracked.
St Peter’s Basilica
*The skull of St Sebastian is placed within a glass-sided reliquary in this museum.
*Also the second chapel on the right side of the nave is dedicated to St Sebastian. A mosaic within this chapel depicts his martyrdom. The original painting that this mosaic replaced hangs within the Roman church Santa Maria degli Angeli.
Santi Quattro Coronati
(Four Holy Crowned Ones)
Piazza dei Santi Quattro Coronati 20
*This church is east of the Colosseum.
*For centuries the skull of St Sebastian was venerated within the crypt of this church. Signage at an altar on the left side of the nave continues to indicate its presence. However, at some point in the last century the skull was removed. It can now be found within a reliquary in the Treasury Museum of St Peter’s Basilica as noted above.
Churches of Honor in Rome
Sant'Andrea della Valle
(Saint Andrew of the Valley)
Piazza Vidoni 6 / Piazza Sant'Andrea della Valle
*This church is located along the Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Prior to the construction of this church in the 17th century a small church dedicated to St Sebastian was located here. Tradition claims that this ancient church rested upon a sewer from which the body of St Sebastian was recovered following his martyrdom. Today a remnant of this ancient church is partially preserved within a niche found in the first chapel on the left side of the nave.
*Also the third chapel on the left side of the nave is dedicated to St Sebastian. The altarpiece within this chapel was painted by Giovanni de’ Vecchi in 1614.
San Sebastiano al Palatino
(Saint Sebastian at the Palatine)
Via San Bonaventura 1
*This church is located in the Roman Forum. It is not open often.
*St Sebastian had been a member of the Roman Emperor’s Praetorian Guard and therefore lived and worked in the Roman Forum. This church honors the memory of St Sebastian’s presence in the Roman Forum and his attempts to evangelize the Roman people. A small relic of St Sebastian rests in the sacristy of this church.