Military saint

The Military Saints, Warrior Saints and Soldier Saints are patron saints, martyrs and other saints associated with the military. They were originally composed of the Early Christians who were soldiers in the Roman army during the persecution of Christians, especially the Diocletianic Persecution of AD 303–313.

Four Military Saints by Michael Damaskinos (16th century, Benaki Museum), showing Saint George and Theodore of Amasea on the left, and Demetrius of Thessaloniki and Theodore Stratelates on the right, all on horseback, with angels holding wreaths over their heads, beneath Christ Pantocrator.
Triptych of the Bogomater flanked by Saints George and Demetrius as horsemen (dated 1754)

Most of the Early Christian military saints were soldiers of the Roman Empire who had become Christian and, after refusing to participate in Imperial cult rituals of loyalty to the Roman Emperor, were subjected to corporal punishment including torture and martyrdom.

Veneration of these saints, most notably of Saint George, was reinforced in the Latin Church during the time of the Crusades. The title of "champion of Christ" (athleta Christi) was originally used for these saints, but in the late medieval period also conferred on contemporary rulers by the Pope.[citation needed]

Since the Middle Ages, more saints have been added for various military-related patronages.


In Late Antiquity other Christian writers of hagiography, like Sulpicius Severus in his account of the heroic, military life of Martin of Tours, created a literary model that reflected the new spiritual, political, and social ideals of a post-Roman society. In a study of Anglo-Saxon soldier saints (Damon 2003), J.E. Damon has demonstrated the persistence of Sulpicius's literary model in the transformation of the pious, peaceful saints and willing martyrs of late antique hagiography to the Christian heroes of the early Middle Ages, who appealed to the newly converted societies led by professional warriors and who exemplified accommodation with and eventually active participation in holy wars that were considered just.[1]


The Military Saints are characteristically depicted as soldiers in traditional Byzantine iconography from about the 10th century (Macedonian dynasty) and especially in Slavic Christianity.[2] While early icons show the saints in "classicizing" or anachronistic attire, icons from the 11th and especially the 12th centuries, painted in the new style of τύπων μιμήματα (“imitating nature”), are an important source of knowledge on medieval Byzantine military equipment.[3]

The angelic prototype of the Christian soldier-saint is the Archangel Michael, whose earliest known cultus began in the 5th century with a shrine at Monte Gargano. The iconography of soldier-saints Theodore and George as cavalrymen develops in the early medieval period. The earliest image of St Theodore as a horseman (named in Latin) is from Vinica, North Macedonia and, if genuine, dates to the 6th or 7th century. Here, Theodore is not slaying a dragon, but holding a draco standard. Three equestrian saints, Demetrius, Theodore and George, are depicted in the "Zoodochos Pigi" chapel in central Macedonia in Greece, in the prefecture of Kilkis, near the modern village of Kolchida, dated to the 9th or 10th century.[4] The "dragon-slaying" motif develops in the 10th century, especially iconography seen in the Cappadocian cave churches of Göreme, where frescoes of the 10th century show military saints on horseback confronting serpents with one, two or three heads.[5] In later medieval Byzantine iconography, the pair of horsemen is no longer identified as Theodore and George, but as George and Demetrius.



(NB: Some saints on the list remain unclassified as of 2021)

Image Name Martyrdom Location Church Patronage
  Agathius 303 Byzantium Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church Soldiers
  Adrian of Nicomedia 306 Nicomedia Catholic Church, Coptic Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox Church Arm dealers, royal guard, soldiers
  Andrew the General 300 Taurus Mountains Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church Army, commander, general, soldiers, stratelates
  Demetrius of Thessaloniki 306 Thessaloniki Anglicanism, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheranism, Oriental Orthodox Churches Crusades, soldiers
  Barbara 267 Aglipayan, Anglicanism, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches Artillery, combat engineer,[6] missileers including those of the Strategic Rocket Forces, the Missile and Artillery Forces, and the Air Defense Forces, Space Forces and the United States Army Field Artillery and Air Defense Artillery Branches
  Cornelius the Centurion Pre-Congregation unknown Anglican Communion, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church Centurion
  George 303 Nicomedia in Bithynia Anglicanism, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheranism, Oriental Orthodox Churches Patronages
  Gereon 304 Cologne Catholic Church, Coptic Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox Church Knight
  James the Great 44 Jerusalem Anglicanism, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheranism, Oriental Orthodox Churches Conquistador, Knights, Military Archbishopric of Spain
  Joan of Arc 1431 Rouen, Normandy Catholic Military personnel, US Women's Army Corps, WAVES
  John the Warrior 4th Century Somewhere in Constantinople (modern Istanbul) Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church Soldiers
  Ignatius of Loyola 1556 Rome, Papal States Anglican Communion, Catholic Military Ordinariate of the Philippines
  Maurice 287 Agaunum in Alpes Poeninae et Graiae Catholic Church, Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches Alpine troops, Swiss Guard
  Martin of Tours 397[7] Candes-Saint-Martin, Gaul Catholic Conscientious objector, infantrymen
Maximilian of Tebessa 295 Tébessa, Numidia Anglicanism, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheranism, Oriental Orthodox Churches Conscientious objector
  Mercurius 250 Caesarea in Cappadocia Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches
  Michael the Archangel Anglicanism, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheranism, Oriental Orthodox Churches Military; paratroopers; policemen.[8]
  Our Lady of Mount Carmel 1226[9] Catholic Spanish Navy,[10][11] Nuclear disarmament
  Our Lady of Loretto Catholic Airmen[12]
  Pope John XXIII Catholic Italian Army[13]
  Sebastian 288 Italy Aglipayan, Anglicanism, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches Soldiers, infantrymen, archers, municipal police
  Sergius and Bacchus 306 Resafa and Barbalissos in Mesopotamia Assyrian Church of the East, Catholic Church, Coptic Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches Army, general officer
  Theodore of Amasea 306 Amasea Amasya in Helenopontus Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church Military
Typasius 304 Tigava, Mauretania Caesariensis Veteran
  Vardan Mamikonian 451 Avarayr Plain, Vaspurakan, Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church, Armenian Catholic Church, Armenian Evangelical Church Knight
  Varus 307 Alexandria Coptic Churches Prison officer, soldier
  Victor Maurus 303 Milan Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheranism Soldier
  Forty Martyrs of Sebaste 320 Sebaste

Eastern Orthodox ChurchEdit

In the Romanian Orthodox Church:

Michael the Archangel: protector of the Romanian Army, and, as the patron saint of Michael the Brave and as the symbol of the Romanian victory in the Great War, the protector of the unity of all Romanians.

Saint George: patron of the Romanian Land Forces

Saint Elijah: patron of the Romanian Air Forces

Virgin Mary: patron of the Romanian Naval Forces

The Russian Orthodox Church:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Damon, John Edward. Soldier Saints and Holy Warriors: Warfare and Sanctity in the Literature of Early England. (Burlington (VT): Ashgate Publishing Company), 2003, ISBN 0-7546-0473-X
  2. ^ "The 'warrior saints' or 'military saints' can be distinguished from the huge host of martyrs by the pictorial convention of cladding them in military attire." (Grotowski 2010:2)
  3. ^ (Grotowski 2010:400)
  4. ^ Melina Paissidou, "Warrior Saints as Protectors of the Byzantine Army in the Palaiologan Period: the Case of the Rock-cut Hermitage in Kolchida (Kilkis Prefecture)", in: Ivanka Gergova Emmanuel Moutafov (eds.), ГЕРОИ • КУЛТОВЕ • СВЕТЦИ / Heroes Cults Saints Sofija (2015), 181-198.
  5. ^ Paul Stephenson, The Serpent Column: A Cultural Biography, Oxford University Press (2016), 179–182.
  6. ^ "Patron Saints: M - Saints & Angels - Catholic Online". Retrieved 2015-12-30.
  7. ^ Martin is not a martyr, and not a classical military saint. He came to be venerated as "military saint" in 19th to 20th-century French nationalism due to his successful promotion as such during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/1. Brennan, Brian, The Revival of the Cult of Martin of Tours in the Third Republic (1997).
  8. ^ "St. Michael, the Archangel - Saints & Angels - Catholic Online". Retrieved 2012-12-27.
  9. ^ approved by Pope Honorius III
  10. ^ Endorsed by Cristóbal Colón, 14th Duke of Veragua
  11. ^ "Portal Cultura de Defensa". Ministerio de Defensa.
  12. ^ Ministerio de Defensa, Portal Cultura de Defensa. "Santos Patrones de las FAS y la Guardía Civil".
  13. ^ Marco Roncalli (6 September 2017). "San Giovanni XXIII sarà patrono dell'Esercito". La Stampa. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  • Monica White, Military Saints in Byzantium and Rus, 900–1200 (2013).
  • Christopher Walter, The Warrior Saints in Byzantine Art and Tradition (2003).
  • Piotr Grotowski, Arms and Armour of the Warrior Saints: Tradition and Innovation in Byzantine Iconography (843–1261), Volume 87 of The Medieval Mediterranean (2010).

External linksEdit