aka Saint Eustace
martyred 188 CE
Feast: September 20 (west) or November 2 (east)
One of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.
Born with the name Placidus, he was a Roman general under Trajan. While hunting one day, he came upon a stag with a crucifix between its antlers. He pursued the stag, who turned on him and spoke:
like as sometime Balaam by the ass, spake to him, saying: Placidus, wherefore followest me hither? I am appeared to thee in this beast for the grace of thee. I am Jesu Christ, whom thou honourest ignorantly, thy alms be ascended up tofore me, and therefore I come hither so that by this hart that thou huntest I may hunt thee. And some other say that this image of Jesu Christ which appeared between the horns of the hart said these words.
--The Golden Legend
The place of the vision is said to have been Guadagnolo, between Tivoli and Palestrina, near Rome
He converted, coming to the bishop of Rome1 at midnight with his wife Tatiana (or Trajana, baptised Theopista) and his sons, Agapius and Theopistus. The family then undergoes a number of trials, robberies, shipwreaks, and separations. Like Job, Eustachius loses everything, but refuses to deny his faith. He is reunited with his family while battling "barbarians," and is hailed by the new emperor Hadrien for the victory in battle.
After the victory, He refused to sacrifice to idols for the emperor, and was stripped of his rank and sentenced to die by fire; he and his family were placed in a metal ox, under which a fire was kindled; they died, but according to The Golden Legend their bodies were not consumed by the flames.
The legend, fabulous as it is, has inspired a number of works of art. The 15th century Italian artist Pisanello used the subject of Eustachius' conversion in his masterpiece "The Vision of Saint Eustace," a dreamy tableux of Eustachius and the stag. At Canterbury Cathedral, there is a famous oil mural of the legend, created in the fifteenth century but lost to deterioration until recovered in the ninteenth.
The writer Russel Hoban was inspired by the mural to write the post-apocalyptic novel Riddley Walker:
"On March 14th, 1974 I visited Canterbury Cathedral for the first time and saw Dr E. W. Tristram's reconstruction of the fifteenth-century wall painting, The Legend of Saint Eustace. This book was begun on May 14th, 1974 and completed on November 5th, 1979."
The novel depicts a post-nuclear Britain
which has returned to a primitive society. Those who retain power use a traveling Mr. Punch
puppet show as a sort of combination mystery play
and political propaganda
. One of the mystery plays involves Eusa
and his greedy desire for "clevverness" and using technology to pull the "Littl Shining Man"
. When Eusa succeeds, he unleashes the "1 Big 1." In doing so, the seperation of the Littl Shining Man destroys society.
The symbol of the stag with a crucifix between its antlers has become the icon of the German alcohol Jägermeister--the name meaning "master hunter", though they relate it to the legend of a Saint Hubertus.
1. If true, I suppose this would be Saint Eleutherius/Eleutheros, traditionally the thirteenth bishop of Rome, i.e. the Pope.
The Golden Legend: http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/golden298.htm
The Catholic Encyclopedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05627a.htm
The Saint Eustace Mural, Canterbury Cathedral: http://hometown.aol.com/joeyhl/images/st.%20eustace%20mural-canterbury.jpg
Russel Hoban and Riddley Walker: http://www.ocelotfactory.com/hoban/riddley.html