|Saint Eustace and companions|
Greek Orthodox icon of St. Eustathios
|Honored in||Anglican Church; Roman Catholic Church; Eastern Orthodox Church|
|Feast||September 20 (Western Christianity, Eastern Orthodoxy); December 13 (Melkite Greek Catholic Church)|
|Attributes||bull; crucifix; horn; stag; oven|
|Patronage||against fire; difficult situations; fire prevention; firefighters; hunters; hunting; huntsmen; Madrid; torture victims; trappers|
Saint Eustace, also known as Eustachius or Eustathius or Eustathios, is revered as a Christian martyr and soldier saint. His developed legend places him in the 2nd century AD, though his historicity is no longer widely credited. A martyr of that name is venerated as a saint in the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church, the latter of which, however, judges that the legend recounted about him is "completely fabulous".
The saint is honored on the calendar of the Melkite Catholics on December 13, as the "Commemoration of the Holy Martyrs Eustrates, Auxentius, Eugene, Mardarius, Orestes and the Virgin Lucia". He is also commemorated in the Orthodox Church, on September 20.
According to legend, prior to his conversion to Christianity, Eustace was a Roman general named Placidus, who served the emperor Trajan. While hunting a stag in Tivoli near Rome, Placidus saw a vision of a crucifix lodged between the stag's antlers. He was immediately converted, had himself and his family baptized, and changed his name to Eustace (Greek: Ευστάθιος Eustathios, "well stable", or Ευστάχιος, Eustachios, "rich crop").
A series of calamities followed to test his faith: his wealth was stolen; his servants died of a plague; when the family took a sea-voyage, the ship's captain kidnapped Eustace's wife Theopista; and as Eustace crossed a river with his two sons Agapius and Theopistus, the children were taken away by a wolf and a lion. Like Job, Eustace lamented but did not lose his faith.
He was then quickly restored to his former prestige and reunited with his family; but when he demonstrated his new faith by refusing to make a pagan sacrifice, the emperor, Hadrian, condemned Eustace, his wife, and his sons to be roasted to death inside a bronze statue of a bull or an ox, in the year AD 118.
The opening part of this legend, up to the martyrdom, is a variant of a popular tale in chivalric romance: the Man Tried By Fate. Except for an exemplum in Gesta Romanorum, all such tales are highly developed romances, such as Sir Isumbras. A distant Indian origin for elements in the Eustace legend has been presented.
Diffusion of his veneration
The veneration of Eustace originated in the Byzantine church; in the West an early-medieval church dedicated to him that existed at Rome is mentioned in a letter of Pope Gregory II. His iconography may have passed to the 12th-century West− before which European examples are scarce− in psalters, where the vision of Eustace, kneeling before the stag, illustrated Psalm 96, ii-12: "Light is risen to the just..." An early depiction of Eustace, the earliest one noted in the Duchy of Burgundy, is carved on a Romanesque capital at the Abbey of la Madaleine, Vézelay. Abbot Suger mentions the first relics of Eustace in Europe, at an altar in the royal Basilica of St Denis; Philip Augustus of France rededicated the church of Saint Agnès, Paris, which became Saint-Eustache (rebuilt in the 16th-17th centuries). The story of Eustace was popularized in Jacobus de Voragine's "Golden Legend" (c. 1260). Scenes from the story, especially of Eustace kneeling before the stag, then became popular subjects of medieval religious art: examples include a wall painting at Canterbury Cathedral and stained glass windows at the Cathedral of Chartres.
Saint Eustace's feast day in the Roman Catholic Church is September 20, as is indicated in the Roman Martyrology. In addition, a celebration of Saint Eustace and his companions was included in the Roman Calendar from the twelfth century until 1969, when it was removed because of the completely fabulous character of the saint's Acta, resulting in a lack of sure knowledge about them. Some traditionalist Catholics continue to observe the pre-1970 Roman Calendar.
Eustace became known as a patron saint of hunters and firefighters, and also of anyone facing adversity; he was traditionally included among the Fourteen Holy Helpers. He is one of the patron saints of Madrid, Spain. The island of Sint Eustatius in the Caribbean Netherlands is named after him.
The D'Afflitto, one of the oldest princely families in Italy, claims to be direct descendants of Saint Eustace.
The novels "The Herb of Grace" (US title: Pilgrim's Inn) (1948) by British author Elizabeth Goudge, and Riddley Walker (1980) by American author Russell Hoban, incorporate the legend into their plot. It has also inspired the film Imagination.
The saint's cross-and-stag symbol is featured on bottles of Jägermeister. This is related to his status as patron of hunters; jägermeisters were senior foresters and gamekeepers in the German civil service at the time of the drink's introduction in 1935.
- Sint Eustatius, an island named after him
- Saint-Eustache, Quebec
- Imagination (film), film inspired by Saint Eustace
- Hubertus, another saint with a similar legend
- Église Saint-Eustache, Paris, a Parisien church bearing his name
- We find on the authority of Mr. Parker in his work entitled the Calendar of the Anglican Church, and also in a work called Emblems of Saints, that St. Eustace was also sometimes represented carrying a horn (1878). The Archaeological journal. Longman, Brown, Green, and Longman. p. 281. Retrieved 28 November 2012.
- "Martyrologium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7)
- Eustace's Vita is edited in the Acta Sanctorum, September 6:124.
- "Saints & Martyrs", Columbia University
- Laura A. Hibbard, Medieval Romance in England p5 (New York: Burt Franklin) 1963
- Laura A. Hibbard, Medieval Romance in England p3 New York Burt Franklin,1963
- E.g. by O. Engels, "Die hagiographischen texte der Papst Gelasius II' in der Überlieferung der Eustachius-, Erasmus- und Hypolistuslegende", Historisches Jahrbuch 76 (1956, noted by Ambrose 2006.
- R. Krautheimer, Corpus basilicarum christianarum Romae (1940) vol. I:216f and Krautheimer, Rome: Profile of a City 1980:80f, 252, 271.
- Kirk Thomas Ambrose, The Nave Sculpture of Vézelay: The Art of Monastic Viewing (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies) 2006:45 gives examples.
- Ambrose 2006:45.
- The Eustace venerated at Saint-Denis may have been Eustace of Luxeuil, the second abbot of Luxueil, from 611.
- Laura A. Hibbard, Medieval Romance in England p4 New York Burt Franklin,1963
- "Calendarium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana), p. 139
Francesco Ferdinandi, The Martyrdom of St. Eustace. Behind the main altar at the Church of Sant'Eustachio, Rome, this painting follows the narrative in the Golden Legend: For refusing to sacrifice to the gods, St. Eustace and his wife and sons are to be enclosed in a Brazen bull which will be heated till they die.
The stag-and-cross symbol of St. Eustace as appearing on a Jagermeister bottle.
- Patron Saints: Saint Eustachius
- The Golden Legend: The Life of Saint Eustace
- "Sts. Eustachius and Companions". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- The 'Life of St Eustace' window at Chartres Cathedral