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)

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.

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.

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.


Further information: List of early Christian saints and 20,000 Martyrs of Nicomedia


(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 Soldiers, Royal guard
Andrew the General 300 Taurus Mountains Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church Army, soldiers
Demetrius of Thessaloniki, 12th century Greek mosaic from Kiev Demetrius of Thessaloniki 306 Thessaloniki Anglicanism, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheranism, Oriental Orthodox Churches Soldiers
Barbara 267 Aglipayan, Anglicanism, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches Artillery, combat engineer, 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
Saint Cornelius and the Angel Cornelius the Centurion Pre-Congregation unknown Anglican Communion, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church Soldiers
George 303 Nicomedia in Bithynia Anglicanism, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheranism, Oriental Orthodox Churches Patronages
Saint Gereon, by a 15th-century German artist Gereon 304 Cologne Catholic Church, Coptic Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox Church Knights
James the Great 44 Jerusalem Anglicanism, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheranism, Oriental Orthodox Churches Soldiers, 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 Soldiers, Military Ordinariate of the Philippines
, Saint Maurice by Matthias Grünewald 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
Saint Martin of Tours from the Grandes Heures of Anne of Brittany. Martin of Tours 397[6] Candes-Saint-Martin, Gaul Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church[7] US Army Quartermaster Corps, infantrymen,
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.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel 1226[8] Catholic Spanish Navy[9][10]
Our Lady of Loretto Catholic Airmen[11]
Pope John XXIII Catholic Italian Army[12]
Sebastian 288 Italy Aglipayan, Anglicanism, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches Soldiers, infantrymen, archers
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, soldiers
Theodore of Amasea 306 Amasea Amasya in Helenopontus Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church Soldiers
Typasius 304 Tigava, Mauretania Caesariensis
Vardan Mamikonian 451 Avarayr Plain, Vaspurakan, Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church, Armenian Catholic Church, Armenian Evangelical Church
Varus 307 Alexandria Coptic Churches
Victor Maurus 303 Milan Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheranism
Forty Martyrs of Sebaste 320 Sebaste

Eastern Orthodox Church

In the Romanian Orthodox Church:

The Russian Orthodox Church:

See also


  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. ^ 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).
  7. ^ "Saint Martin the Merciful Bishop of Tours". Orthodox Church in America.
  8. ^ approved by Pope Honorius III
  9. ^ Endorsed by Cristóbal Colón, 14th Duke of Veragua
  10. ^ "Portal Cultura de Defensa". Ministerio de Defensa.
  11. ^ Ministerio de Defensa, Portal Cultura de Defensa. "Santos Patrones de las FAS y la Guardía Civil".
  12. ^ Marco Roncalli (6 September 2017). "San Giovanni XXIII sarà patrono dell'Esercito". La Stampa. Retrieved 7 September 2017.