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Saint Eustace

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For the Lithuanian saint, see Eustace of Vilnius.
Saint Eustace and companions
Pisanello 018.jpg
The Vision of Saint Eustace, by Pisanello.
Died 118 AD
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church; Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast September 20 (Western Christianity); November 2 (Eastern Christianity)
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, was a legendary Christian martyr who lived in the 2nd century AD. A martyr of that name is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, which, however, judges that the legend recounted about him is "completely fabulous."[1] For that reason Eustace was removed from the Roman Catholic calendar of saints to be commemorated liturgically worldwide on the former feast of "Saint Eustace and Companions."[2]


Prior to his conversion to Christianity, he was a Roman general named Placidus, who served the emperor Trajan. While hunting a stag in Tivoli near Rome, Placidus saw a vision of Jesus between the stag's antlers. He was immediately converted, had himself and his family baptized, and changed his name to Eustace (Greek: Ευστάθιος Eustathios, "good fortune" or "fruitful"). 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; and as Eustace crossed a river with his two sons, 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.

Veneration and diffusion of the cult

The story was popularized in Jacobus de Voragine's "Golden Legend" (c. 1260). 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.

As with many early saints, there is little evidence for Eustace's existence; elements of his story have been attributed to other saints (notably the Belgian Saint Hubert).

Saint Eustace's feast day in the Roman Catholic Church was September 20.[3] In addition, Saint Eustace and his companions were included in the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints who were to be commemorated wherever the Roman Rite is celebrated, but that commemoration was removed in 1969 because, in view of the fabulous character of his "Passio," scarcely anything is known of the saint.[4] Traditional Roman Catholics continue to celebrate the feast of "St Eustace and Companions, Martyrs" on September 20.[5] Many Roman Catholics worldwide still venerate Saint Eustace and the Fourteen Holy Helpers overall.

Patronage and cultural references

He is one of the patron saints of Madrid, Spain. Scenes from the story, especially Eustace kneeling before the stag, became a popular subject of medieval religious art. Early artistic depictions of the legend include a wall painting at Canterbury Cathedral and stained glass windows at the Cathedral of Chartres. There is a Church of Saint Eustace in Paris, and the island of Sint Eustatius in the Netherlands Antilles is named after him.

The novels "The Herb of Grace" (US title: Pilgrim's Inn) (1948) by British author Elizabeth Goudge, and Riddley Walker (1980) by English author Russell Hoban, incorporate the legend into their plot.

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.


  1. "Martyrologium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7)
  2. "Calendarium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 139
  3. "Martyrologium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7)
  4. "Calendarium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana), p. 139
  5. See the General Roman Calendar as in 1954, the General Roman Calendar of Pope Pius XII, and the General Roman Calendar of 1962


See also

External links

ca:Eustaqui de Romahu:Szent Eustachiusja:エウスタキウス

no:Sankt Eustachiuspt:Santo Eustáquio ru:Великомученик Евстафий fi:Pyhä Eustachius

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