Past Exhibitions

March 23, 2023—June 4, 2023

Stories of saints have been an important Christian tradition from its inception; their exemplary lives serve as models of Christian morality. As Christianity spread, the saints took on the roles previously held by the heroes of local lore and the pantheon of the old gods. As the Church grew, so did the number of people recognized for their great piety and works of faith: monarchs and peasants, warriors and monks alike have found their place on the lists of the Church and in the hearts of the faithful.

Within this category of saintly icons is a curious grouping of martyrs called “warrior” or “soldier” saints who, in addition to suffering torture and death, are renowned for their bravery, virtues, and defense of Christianity. Many, but not all, of these holy warriors were soldiers before martyrdom. They are not celebrated for their military careers but rather for their steadfastness and resilience. In the tenth century, the role of warrior saints grew in importance when Byzantine civil and military leaders used these narratives to boost morale amongst the troops, who began to see the saints as their patrons and protectors. 

The icons in this exhibit depict the saints in action, telling the story of their great deeds. The saints wear armor and the red color of their clothing represents their martyrdom. Some, like Saint George, receive a crown, indicating his further glorification as a great martyr who endured significant torment.