March 30, 2014

⛪ Saint Irene of Rome

Saint of the Day : March 30

St Sebastian Tended by St Irene / Artist - Nicolas Regnier

Castulus and Irene were a married couple living in ancient Rome who risked everything to support the early Christian community. 

Castulus was an officer who oversaw the household and palace for Emperor Diocletian, who was actively persecuting Christians. He is described as a quiet but zealous Christian. He arranged for Christians to gather for Mass inside the emperor’s palace because it was the last place that Roman authorities would search. He also sheltered Christians in his own home, which was attached to the palace. With a friend, he even went about the city, gathering men and women to the faith and presenting them to the pope for baptism. 

A Christian who turned his back on the faith betrayed Castulus to the prefect of Rome. Castulus was arrested and tortured before being buried alive in 288.

The widowed Irene, depicted above with Castulus, continued to be active in the Christian community in Rome. She plays a large role in the famous story of the martyrdom of St. Sebastian. Sebastian was a guard in Diocletian’s army, and a favorite of the emperor, but he supported Christians who were being persecuted. He was tied to a tree and shot with arrows and left for dead. He survived, however, and it was St. Irene who helped to nurse him back to health. She is pictured here attending to Sebastian in a painting by Trophime Bigot. Her feast day is March 30, and her relics, as well as the relics of St. Castullus, rest in the reliquary chapel in the Basilica.

Sts. Castullus and Irene, you were the married couple who opened your home to persecuted Christian, Pay for us!

This painting illustrates the Roman widow Irene nursing Saint Sebastian back to health after he was discovered to be a Christian and shot with arrows by Roman archers. Writhing in pain, Saint Sebastian looks heavenward as Saint Irene pulls arrows from his pierced body. Vicente LΓ³pez y PortaΓ±a dynamically composed the figure of Sebastian, with one arm tied above his head and his other arm held by an attendant, in order to more clearly display the wounds on his upper body and to allude to the martyrdom of Christ. Sebastian's bent leg reveals the bleeding gash from which Irene has already removed one arrow. As she leans toward Sebastian's knee, she carefully pulls the saint's flesh in order to extract a second arrow. In the foreground, the depiction of the armor and weapons Sebastian wore as a military captain signals that this event occurred in ancient Rome. 

LΓ³pez y PortaΓ±a's luscious palette and creamy application of paint contrast with the drama and emotion of this religious story. Like Andrea Lilio's Figures Tending to the Wounded Saint Sebastian, this painting differs from representations that show the Saint bound to a tree or pillar, moments after the attack. 

Related Post