The Temptation of St Anthony (c. 1494) by Bernardino Parenzano, Galleria Doria Pamphilj
January 17th: Feast of St Anthony Abbot
St Anthony Abbot (c. 251-356), also known as St Anthony the Great, is regarded as the father of monasticism. As a young man, he distributed all his belongings to the poor and set off into the Egyptian desert. There he lived alone for two decades, striving to overcome all temptations of the flesh. His struggles with temptations, which he called his 'demons', have been the subject of many works of art. He acquired such a reputation for spiritual strength that many came to live near him.
In art, St Anthony Abbot is portrayed wearing the robe and hood of a monk; his main attributes are a pig, a bell and a Tau Cross.
St Anthony Abbot is invoked by people with skin diseases. In the past, many such afflictions, including ergotism, erysipelas and shingles, were referred to as St Anthony's fire.
Towards the end of the 11th century, circa 1095, the Hospitallers of St Anthony was founded by Gaston of Valloire, with the express purpose of caring for those suffering from St Anthony's fire. The Hospitallers of St Anthony, also known as the Antonines, raised pigs, as pork fat was used to alleviate the inflammation and itching. By a special papal dispensation, the Order's pigs were allowed to roam freely in the streets.
St Anthony has left a trace on the English language with the word 'tantony', the name given to the runt in a litter of pigs.
St Sebastian by Giuseppe Giorgetti, San Sebastiano fuori le Mura
January 20th: Feast of St Sebastian
According to legend, Sebastian was an officer in the elite Praetorian Guard during the reign of the emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305). He was condemned to death for being a Christian and was ordered to be shot with arrows. He was left for dead by his executioners, but was nursed back to health by a widow named Irene. Sebastian returned to confront the emperor with a renewed avowal of his faith and this time he was beaten to death with clubs. His body was then thrown into the Cloaca Maxima, the main sewer of Rome.
The church of San Sebastiano al Palatino stands on the putative site of the saint's 'first' martyrdom.
In art, St Sebastian is depicted semi-naked, his body pierced with arrows. He is the patron saint of soldiers and archers. St Sebastian was also commonly invoked as a protector against the plague.
St Agnes, Sant' Agnese in Agone
January 21st: Feast of St Agnes
St Agnes lived in Rome during the reign of the emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305).
At the age of thirteen, she declared herself to be a bride of Christ and refused to marry the son of the Prefect of Rome, who was in love with her. The Prefect tried to make her change her mind, by having her taken to a brothel where she was stripped naked. She prayed to Christ for help and her hair grew to great length, covering the whole of her body. The Prefect then ordered her to be burned alive, but she stood unharmed in the midst of the flames. Finally, a soldier was ordered to cut off her head with his sword.
The 17th century church of Sant' Agnese in Agoneis built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, once a popular haunt of prostitutes. The 9th century church of Sant' Agnese fuori le Mura, is built above the catacombs where she was buried.
In art, St Agnes is depicted with a white lamb, a symbol of purity.
The Dream of St Joseph by Domenico Guidi, Santa Maria della Vittoria
March 19th: Feast of St Joseph
St Joseph, husband of Mary, was a carpenter in Nazareth. He is often depicted with a flowering staff, a reference to the legend that when the Virgin Mary was fourteen years old each of her suitors left a staff at the Temple hoping for a sign to indicate which of them was favoured by God. In the morning Joseph's staff was discovered budding into leaf.
In art, a flowering staff is St Jospeh's main attribute. He is the patron saint of carpenters and fathers.
St Mark by Isaia da Pisa, San Marco
April 25th: Feast of St Mark the Evangelist
St Mark was the travelling companion of Paul and Barnabas on St Paul's first missionary journey. He is said to have later travelled to Alexandria, where he founded the first Christian community in the city. It was in Alexandria that he was martyred. Centuries later his body was stolen by Venetian sailors and taken to Venice, where he became its patron saint.
St Mark's main attribute is a winged lion.
Tomb of St Catherine of Siena, Santa Maria sopra Minerva
April 29th: Feast of St Catherine of Siena
St Catherine of Siena(1347-80) was a mystic and a lay member of the Dominican Order. St Catherine had a strong influence on Pope Gregory XI's decision to return to Rome from Avignon in 1378, thus bringing to an end the so-called 'Babylonian captivity of the Papacy'.
St Catherine, who is interred in the Dominican church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, was canonised by Pope Pius II (r. 1458-64) on April 29th 1461.
St Philip Neri by Alessandro Algardi, Chiesa Nuova
May 26th: Feast of St Philip Neri
San Filippo Neri (1515-85), commonly called the second apostle of Rome, was the founder of the Congregation of the Oratory, better known as the Oratorians.
St Philip Neri, who is interred in the Chiesa Nuova, was canonised by Pope Gregory XV (r. 1621-23) on March 12th 1622.
St Anthony of Padua by Benozzo Gozzoli, Santa Maria in Aracoeli
June 13th: Feast of St Anthony of Padua
St Anthony was born, on August 15th 1195, in the Portuguese city of Lisbon. He died, on June 13th 1231, in the Italian city of Padua, where he is buried. Less than a year later, on May 30th 1232, St Anthony was canonised by Pope Gregory IX (r. 1227-41).
St Anthony of Padua is the patron saint of, inter alia, lost things, lost people and lost souls.
In art, St Anthony is most often depicted holding the Christ Child and/or a lily. He is less frequently portrayed holding a flaming heart.
Head of St John the Baptist by Igor Mitoraj, Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri
June 24th: Feast of St John the Baptist
St John the Baptist forms a link between the Old and New Testaments, as he is regarded as the last in line of the Old Testament prophets and the first of the saints of the New Testament, in which his story is told. John was the son of Zacharias, a priest of the Temple, and Elizabeth, a relation of the Virgin.
John was a preacher, who baptised, in the river Jordan, all who came to him in a penitent spirit. At the baptism of Christ, the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove was seen to descend from heaven.
John rebuked Herod Antipas (son of Herod the Great) for marrying his dead brother's wife. He was imprisoned and later beheaded, the result of a rash promise that Herod made to his step-daughter Salome.
In art, St John the Baptist holds a lamb, which may have a cruciform nimbus. The lamb refers to the fourth gospel: "And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!" (John 1:36).
Statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, entrance to Palazzo del Quirinale
June 29th: Feast of St Peter and St Paul
St Peter, 'the Prince of the Apostles', was a fisherman from Galilee, and the brother of Andrew. Peter and Andrew were called to be 'fishers of men' (Matthew 4:16). St Peter's special attribute is a pair of keys: 'I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven' (Matthew 16:19). His other attributes are an upturned Cross and a cockerel.
St Paul was born Saul, a Jew from Tarsus, circa 10 CE. He was converted to Christianity while on the road to Damascus. His attributes are a sword, with which he was executed, and a book or scroll. St Peter and St Paul are the patron saints of Rome.
St Thomas the Apostle by Pierre Legros the Younger, San Giovanni in Laterano
July 3rd: Feast of St Thomas the Apostle
St Thomas, also called Didymus (twin), is popularly known as 'doubting Thomas'. His main attribute is a builder's set-square. St Thomas was absent when Christ first appeared to the disciples after his death. When told about the Resurrection, Thomas refused to believe it until he had seen Christ for himself. Christ appeared again when Thomas was with them and said to him, 'Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed' (John 20:27). St Thomas is the patron saint of builders and architects.
St Mary Magdalene, facade of Santa Maria Maddalena
July 22nd: Feast of St Mary Magdalene
Mary, who came from the village of Magdal, near the Lake of Galilee, was the woman 'out of whom came seven devils' (Luke 8:2). This may mean that she had epilepsy, which, at the time, was attributed to demonic possession. Mary Magdalene witnessed the crucifixion; saw where Jesus' body was laid; and was the first person to whom the risen Christ appeared (Mark 16:9).
In art, St Mary Magdalene's attribute is a jar of ointment.
St James the Greater by Camillo Rusconi, San Giovanni in Laterano
July 25th: Feast of St James the Greater
St James was the son of Zebedee, a fisherman from Galilee, and the brother of John. He was among the circle of men closest to Christ, being with Peter and John at the Transfiguration.
St James is generally portrayed wearing the pilgrim's broad-brimmed hat and cloak, on either of which appears his special attribute, a scallop shell.
St Ignatius Loyola by Camillo & Giuseppe Rusconi, St Peter's Basilica
July 31st: Feast of St Ignatius Loyola
In 1539, St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), the Spanish soldier-turned-priest, founded the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits. He died in Rome on July 31st 1556 and was canonised by Pope Gregory XV (r. 1621-23) on March 12th 1622.
St Ignatius is interred in the Chiesa del Gesù, the mother church of the Jesuits.
A detail of the facade of the church of Santi Domenico e Sisto
August 8th: Feast of St Dominic
St Dominic (1170-1221), who was born in Spain of noble parentage, was the founder of the Dominican Order, also known as the Order of Preachers.
In art, St Dominic is depicted wearing the habit of his Order, a white tunic under a black hooded cloak. He may hold a lily, a sign of chastity, and a book (the Gospels). He is also often represented as a dog with a flaming torch in its mouth, a pun on the name of his Order : Domini Canis (Dog of the Lord).
St Dominic, who was canonised by Pope Gregory IX (r. 1227-41) on July 13th 1234, is the patron saint of astronomers.
St Lawrence by Stefano Galletti, San Lorenzo fuori le Mura
August 10th: Feast of St Lawrence
St Lawrence was ordained deacon by Pope Sixtus II (r. 257-58) and was executed shortly after, on the orders of Emperor Valerian (r. 253-60) in 258.
According to legend, St Lawrence's death was particularly gruesome; he was roasted alive on a gridiron. At one point during his ordeal he is said to have remarked: 'Turn me over, I'm done on this side!', a wry observation that led to him becoming the patron saint of both cooks and comedians.
What purports to be the gridiron on which St Lawrence was martyred is kept in the ancient church of San Lorenzo in Lucina.
St Bartholomew by Michelangelo, The Last Judgement, Sistine Chapel
August 24th: Feast of St Bartholomew
The New Testament mentions Bartholomew only by name, but says nothing about his life.
In art, his attribute is a knife, for according to the Legenda Aurea (Golden Legend, c.1259-66), he was martyred by being flayed alive. St Bartholomew is generally depicted with his flayed skin draped over his arm.
St Bartholomew is the patron saint of tanners and dermatologists. The saint's relics are preserved in the church of Sant' Bartolomeo all' Isola.
St Augustine Defeating Heresy, Sant' Agostino
August 28th: Feast of St Augustine of Hippo
St Augustine (354-430), theologian, one of the four Fathers of the Latin Church, and author of The City of God, was bishop of Hippo Regius in the Roman province of Numidia (modern-day Tunisia).
In art, St Augustine is commonly portrayed with a mitre and a crozier. His attribute is a flaming heart, a symbol of religious fervour.
St Matthew and the Angel by Caravaggio, Contarelli Chapel, San Luigi dei Francesi
September 21st: Feast of St Matthew the Evangelist
St Matthew was a tax-gatherer from Capernaum and, by tradition, the author of the first gospel.
St Matthew's attribute is a winged figure resembling an angel, who may be seen dictating as the saint writes. St Matthew generally has a book, pen and an inkhorn, the standard attributes of a writer.
St Michael the Archangel by Peter Anton Verschaffelt, Castel Sant' Angelo
September 29th: Feast of St Michael the Archangel
St Michael appears in the Book of Revelation (12:7): 'And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon;and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him'.
In art, St Michael wears a coat of mail and is armed with a shield and a sword or spear.
Statue of St Francis of Assisi (1927) by Giuseppe Tonnini, Piazza di Porta San Giovanni
October 4th: Feast of St Francis of Assisi
St Francis of Assisi (1181/2-1226), one of the most venerated figures in Christianity, founded the Order of Franciscans. St Francis was canonised by Pope Gregory IX on July 16th 1228.
In art, St Francis is portrayed in a brown habit with a rope around the waist. The rope has three knots, symbolising the Franciscan's vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. His hands and feet bear the stigmata, the wounds of Christ.
St Luke by Francesco Fabi-Altini, San Paolo fuori le Mura
October 18th: Feast of St Luke the Evangelist
St Luke was described by St Paul as the 'beloved physician', but he does not appear in art in this role. As he was thought to have been an artist, he is portrayed as such, generally painting an image of the Virgin.
St Luke's main attribute is a winged ox.
St Cecilia by Stefano Maderno, Santa Cecilia in Trastevere
November 28th: Feast of St Cecilia
St Cecilia (third century virgin and martyr), who is the patron saint of musicians, is interred in the church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere.
St Andrew by Francois Duquesnoy, St Peter's Basilica
November 30th: Feast of St Andrew the Apostle
The brother of Peter, and the first to follow Christ, St Andrew is usually portrayed as an old man, bearded and white-haired. His main attribute is a saltire, an X-shaped cross.
St Andrew is the patron saint of fishermen.
Statue of St Barbara, Santa Barbara dei Librai
December 4th: Feast of St Barbara
As a young woman, St Barbara, who is said to have lived in the 3rd century, was locked up in a tower by her possessive father, a pagan who feared she might marry and leave home. Hearing of Christianity, she became interested and invited a Christian disciple disguised as a physician. As a result of the visit, she converted and was baptised. Realising that the tower only had two windows, she arranged for a third to be added when her father was absent.
On her father's return, she confessed her faith and explained that the soul received light through three windows: the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Enraged by her conversion, the father handed her over to the authorities, who had her tortured. He then asked for permission to cut off the head of his own daughter, which he duly did. As he returned home, having committed this awful deed, he was suddenly struck dead by a bolt of lightning. As a result of this punishment, St Barbara became the patron saint of gunners and fire workers. She is also invoked against accidents and sudden death.
St Barbara's main attribute is a tower, usually one with three windows.
St Lucy by Innocenzo Spinazzi and Ferdinando Lisandroni, Santa Lucia del Gonfalone
December 13th: Feast of St Lucy
St Lucy, a virgin and martyr from Syracuse in Italy, died (circa 304) during the emperor Diocletian's persecutions of the Christians.
St Lucy's main attribute is a pair of eyes, which lie on a dish or sprout like flowers from a stalk in her hand. According to legend, St Lucy plucked out her eyes and sent them to a unwanted suitor who would not cease from praising their beauty. God rewarded her with a new pair. It is not hard to see (no pun intended!) why St Lucy became the patron saint of opticians.
Stoning of St Stephen, fresco by Fra Angelico, Cappella Niccolina
December 26th: Feast of St Stephen
St Stephen is regarded as the first martyr, or 'protomartyr'. He was stoned to death after arousing the anger of the Sanhedrin with his sermon which, accused them of having murdered the Messiah, whose coming their prophets had foretold.
In art, St Stephen's attribute is a handful of stones, which usually rest on his head or shoulders. He is appealed to for relief by people suffering from headaches.
Bas-relief of St John the Evangelist, Santa Maria in Aracoeli
December 27th: Feast of St John the Evangelist
John, the son of Zebedee and brother of James (the Greater), is the presumed author of the fourth gospel and, by tradition, the Book of Revelation. In art, St John's main attribute is an eagle, which may hold a pen or inkhorn in its beak.