Why is Saint Sebastian the sexiest of all saints?

Sebastian was an early Christian martyr killed in 288 in Rome on orders from the Roman emperor Diocletian. He was at first tied to a tree and shot with arrows, but after surviving that attack, he was clubbed to death by Diocletian’s soldiers.

If you haven’t seen Hunger of the Pines by Alt J, take a look at their video, there’s a strange surging melancholy to it; an anxious victory. Some say there’s a reference to Saint Sebastian in the lyrics.

Hunger of the pines

If it’s true, it confirms my feeling that Saint Sebastian is the sexiest of all saints. I’ve been seeing him a lot in galleries lately and have been thinking what makes him so compelling. It may be because all the scenes of him don’t depict his death, instead they portray his rescue by Irene of Rome.

Saint Sebastian

Saint Sebastian as a queer icon.

There’s also something about him being stuck by arrows. There’s a sexual energy to flesh being pierced. He is almost always portrayed almost naked with his arms above his head, writhing in pain and ecstasy. His images are charged with potency.

During medieval times, Saint Sebastian was embraced as a patron of divine protection and healing – warding off the plague. Later, he was adopted as patron saint of the gay community for protection against modern plagues. Modern writers and artists like Oscar Wilde and Keith Haring were devotees.

Saint Sebastian is an exemplary sufferer.

Susan Sontag noted that Sebastian doesn’t yell out in anguish amid his wounding but endures the torment with an expression caught between pain and pleasure, according to ArtNet. Sontag called him the “exemplary sufferer.” His head is often flung back or forward rapturously. He conceals the depth of his emotions, experiencing both torments and pleasures privately, a feeling similar to the experience of gay identity for many men in the 20th century.

St Sebastian by Pierre et Gilles.

Classic tales with a queer twist.

In my studio, it’s inspired me to create a series of papier mâché pots which take a classic tales and retell them with a queer lens. The story of Narcissus becomes the story of Queercissus, who’s body obsession leads to his oblivion. The story of Moses becomes a story of wandering to find one’s true self. See more at raymonde.com.au

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