geboren: onbekend, gestorven: ca 288, feestdag: 20 januari; patroon van de boogschutters en de atleten
According to legend, Sebastian, born to a wealthy family in the third century, converted to Christianity as a young adult. A favorite of the Emperor Diocletian, Sebastian was appointed Captain of the Guard in the Imperial Roman Army. Diocletian was unaware of Sebastian's faith, but during the emperor's persecution of the Christians, Sebastian visited Christian prisoners in order to provide them supplies and solace; furthermore, he converted, among others, the jailers and the Prefect of Rome. An infuriated Diocletian demanded Sebastian renounce Christianity, and Sebastian refused. The emperor ordered that Sebastian be executed. Roman soldiers tied him to a tree, and archers shot him with arrows. Miraculously, however, he did not die, and after his wounds healed, he returned to the emperor's palace, where he intercepted Diocletian and denounced his persecution of the Christians. Diocletian ordered Sebastian be clubbed to death and tossed into a sewer. Subsequently, Christians retrieved Sebastian's corpse and buried his remains on the Appian Way. Sebastian is revered as a martyr and is the patron saint of archers, soldiers, athletes, and sufferers of the plague.
Sint-Sebastiaan in de kunst
St. Sebastian in Art Starting in the Renaissance, artists frequently portrayed Sebastian as a young man, virtually naked, bound to a tree, and pierced with arrows, his face either passive or displaying religious ecstasy. According to art historian Richard E. Spear, the St. Sebastian story provided artists the rare opportunity to paint the male form at a time when images of the nude female predominated in the art world. Depictions of St. Sebastian's martyrdom were popular and appeared in the work of many artists, including Guido Reni, Giuseppi Cesari, Carlo Saraceni, and Giovanni Bazzi, the latter known as Il Sodoma due to his proclivity for painting and consorting with young men.
Sint-Sebastiaan en homo-erotiek
Alongside the Christian legends of St. Sebastian, there developed stories that led to the martyr's being appropriated as a homoerotic icon. Some tales speculate that the Emperor Diocletian made romantic advances upon Sebastian and was enraged when Sebastian rejected him on Christian grounds. Other stories actually refer to Sebastian as the emperor's lover. Whether or not such accounts are legitimate, the image of St. Sebastian has been linked to homoeroticism, the critic Georges Eekhoud being the first to note this connection in 1909.
Gay artists and critics, too, have responded to the homoerotic elements in Sebastian's portrayal. For instance, in novelist Yukio Mishimi's autobiographical Confessions of a Mask, the narrator ties his homosexual awakening with his discovery of a copy of Reni's St. Sebastian. Oscar Wilde, who used the name "Sebastian" as an alias while in France and regarded Reni's Sebastian as the artist's most beautiful work, visited Sebastian's grave, reflecting, "the vision of Guido's St. Sebastian came before my eyes as I saw him at Genoa, a lovely brown boy, with crisp, clustering hair and red lips, raising his eyes with divine, impassioned gaze towards the Eternal Beauty of the opening Heavens." And gay critic James Saslow, in a discussion of Sodoma's Sebastian, notes that the saint "writhes in ostensibly religious ecstasy open to multiple personalized interpretations, from the epitome of sado-masochism to the artist's comment on his own public 'martyrdom.'"
Twentieth-century artists have utilized the homoerotic facets of the St. Sebastian legend in their own work. Klaus Bodanze has clad Sebastian in leather (St. Sebastian in Leather), Alfred Courmes has incorporated him into a 'fetish painting' (St. Sebastian Sailor), and Julian Schnabel has linked him with the devastation of AIDS (Fox Farm Paintings).
Tennessee Williams, who came from a "high church" Episcopalian tradition and converted to Catholicism, was familiar with the images and tales of St. Sebastian. His poem "San Sebastiano de Sodoma" celebrates both the religious aspects of St. Sebastian's story, as well as the tradition that has made the saint an icon of homosexuality.
"But for captain of the heroic team, for sheer in-your-face bravery, I nominate Il Sodoma. No doubts at all about this guy! His real name was Gianantonio Bazzi (1477-1549) and he's quite possibly the first man in history to shout, “I'm here, I'm queer, get used to it!” His “lifestyle” earned him this nickname and he insisted on being called by it. His paintings in the world's greatest museums bear this name, as do his wonderful frescoes, and Il Sodoma is the name you will find him under in your encyclopedia. He is known to history as the Sodomite."