The facade of the church of Sant' Eustachio is crowned with a striking, if somewhat curious, image of a stag's head, which bears, betwixt its antlers, a bronze cross. A stag's head also appears in each of the capitals of the columns and pilasters that make up the lower part of the facade.
The church of Sant' Eustachio is dedicated to St. Eustace, a legendary Christian martyr, who, according to tradition, was an officer in the army of the emperor Trajan (r. 98-117). Eustace's conversion to Christianity is said to have occurred while he was out hunting, when he was confronted by a white stag, which bore a radiant crucifix between its antlers. He heard a voice telling him that he would be sent many tribulations as a test of his new faith. The officer was baptised in the name of Eustace, having been born Placidus.
Eustace, his wife, and their two sons, are said to have been martyred in 118. The manner of their death was particularly gruesome; they were roasted alive in a hollow bronze bull. St Eustace became the patron saint of hunters and fire-fighters.
Sant' Eustachio was founded in the 8th century, but the current church only dates back to the 17th/18th centuries. Its Romanesque brick bell tower, however, survives from the 12th century.
Blogging about Rome,
its art, history and culture.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
small-group walking tours
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