First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

Sebastian (Sebastianus), a very illustrious man, was an officer of the highest rank under Diocletian, and the soldiers honored him as a father. He was a true lover of God, and at this time, with his learning sustained many martyrs, particularly Marcus and Marcellianus, the brothers, and their parents, and comforted them in their fears. Without fear he acknowledged himself a Christian. He brought speech to the dumb wife of Nicostratus, and converted them both to the Lord. When Diocletian heard this he caused Sebastian to be bound in the middle of the field, and the soldiers to shoot at him as at a target. And so they filled him with arrows until he looked as rough as a hedgehog; and they left him for dead. But in a short time he came back to health, and to the emperors he made declaration of their unjust persecutions. They caused him to be beaten with clubs at Rome until he died. The people of Diocletian’s court threw him into a secret chamber. Through a vision he was disclosed to the blessed Lucina, and buried in an honorable place. This Sebastian, beside his Christian faith, was a man of complete foresight, truthful speech, righteousness, wise counsel, and faithful dealings, and renowned for his sound morals. The divine Sebastian suffered martyrdom at Rome on the 13th of the Kalends of February.[Sebastian was a native of Narbonne, in Gaul, and the son of noble parents, who had held high offices in the empire. At an early age he was promoted to the command of a company in the Praetorian Guard, so that he was always near the person of the emperor, and held in special favor. Secretly he was a Christian, but his faith rendered him more loyal to his masters; more faithful in his engagements; more mild, more charitable, while his favor with his princes, and his popularity with the troops, enabled him to protect those who were persecuted for Christ’s sake, and to convert many to the truth. Among his friends were two young men of noble family, soldiers like himself, Marcus and Marcellinus. Being Christians, they were condemned to undergo torture, which they endured with unshaken firmness, and were afterward led forth to death. Sebastian, neglecting his own safety, strengthened and confirmed them in their faith; and although they were saved at this time, were denounced a few months later, and together with the whole Christian community were put to death. At length it was Sebastian’s turn. Diocletian ordered him bound to a stake and shot to death with arrows. The archers left him for dead. In the middle of the night, Irene, the widow of one of his martyred friends, took away his body to bury it honorably; but it was found that none of the arrows had pierced him in a vital part, and that he yet breathed. They carried him to her house and dressed his wounds; and he recovered. He was counseled to flee from Rome, but instead he went to the palace and reproached the emperor for his intolerance and cruelty. In a rage Diocletian had him seized and clubbed to death, and his body thrown into the Cloaca Maxima (‘Biggest Sewer’), Rome’s (and one of the world’s earliest) sewage systems (the earlier emperor Elagabalus also suffered a similar fate). But a Christian lady, named Lucina, found means to recover his body, and interred it secretly in the catacombs.]

Lucia, a maiden of Sicily, among other virgins of the same island the most prominent, was at this time betrothed by her mother to a renowned youth. But when Lucia had seen the miracles of Saint Agatha, she asked her mother to no longer call her the spouse of the youth, and in haste she gave her inheritance to the widows and the poor. For this reason her husband denounced her before the court as a Christian and accused her of dealings contrary to the law. And the judge advised her to sacrifice to the idolatrous gods, saying, If you will not do this, I will cause you to be put into a public house with prostitutes; and he arranged to have this done. Shortly after that she said, The body cannot be defiled without the consent of the mind; and if against my will you cause me to be violated, chastity will be a double crown. But through the help of the Holy Spirit she became so heavy that she could not be removed from the spot. The judge caused a great fire to be made beside her, but the judge became so frightened that his friend drove a sword through her neck. And thus on the Ides of December she gave up her spirit. And through her suffering and holiness the city of Syracuse was especially adorned.[Legend recounts that Lucia (in English ‘Lucy’), a noble and virtuous young girl, lived with her widowed mother in the city of Syracuse. She had been early instructed in Christianity, and secretly dedicated her virginity to Christ; but her mother did not know it. At fourteen she was betrothed by her relatives to a youth of the same city, noble and wealthy, but a pagan. Suffering from a grievous disorder, her mother made a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Agatha, and Lucy accompanied her. There Lucy saw St. Agatha in a vision, and the vision addressed her as "my sister-handmaid of Christ." And the mother was healed. After this Lucy secured her mother’s consent to remain a virgin, and entreated that her dowry might be given to the poor. So Lucy sold all their possessions and gave them to the sick, the widows and orphans. And her betrothed became enraged when he learned this, and denounced her to the governor as being a Christian. When she refused to sacrifice to the gods, the governor ordered her to be carried to a brothel and treated with indignity and humbled to his will. And she said, "My body is in your power; but know that there can be neither sin nor shame to which the mind does not consent."]

Vitus, a child out of Sicily, together with Modestus, his tutor, and Crescentia his nurse, suffered martyrdom in the island of Sicily. As a Christian believer, at the age of twelve years, he gave his estate to the needy. He would not follow his pagan father in the worship of idols, and for this reason suffered severe punishment at the hands of Valerianus the judge. Then, by means of an angelic warning, he, together with Modestus and Crescentia, shipped to the land of Tonagritarus; and there they remained for some time, unknown and in prayer. They released the son of Diocletian from demons. By him Vitus was asked to worship the idols, and refusing to do so, he was placed in irons and imprisoned. And afterwards, because they remained steadfast in their faith, they were laid upon a mass of seething resin and pitch; but they remained uninjured. Later they were hung upon a gallows, and so stretched that, with the bones separated, their inner organs could be seen. There was a great earthquake, and an angel of God released them, and led them to the river Siler (Syler). There, while praying, they made their way to the Lord. He collected their flowering bodies and buried them with spices. They suffered their prophesied martyrdoms on the 17th day of the Kalends of July.[The legends concerning Vitus or Vito claim that he was the son of a noble Sicilian. And although his parents were pagans, his nurse Crescentia, and his foster-father Modestus, were secretly Christians. And it was the latter two who brought him up in the faith, and caused him to be baptized. At the age of 12 he openly professed himself a Christian to the great indignation of his father, and the cruel governor Valerian, who attempted to subdue his constancy by the usual terror and tortures. He was beaten and shut up in a dungeon; but his father, looking through the keyhole, beheld him dancing with seven beautiful angels; and he was so amazed and dazzled by their celestial radiance, that he became blind in the same moment, and only recovered his sight by the intercession of his son. But his heart being hardened, he again persecuted Vitus, and treated him cruelly; therefore the youth fled with his nurse and Modestus, and crossed the sea to Italy in a little boat, an angel steering at the helm. But soon after their arrival they were accused before the court of the Emperor Diocletian, plunged into a caldron of boiling oil, and thus received the crown of martyrdom. Vitus became the patron saint of dancers and actors, and was invoked against the nervous affection commonly called St. Vitus’ Dance.]

Afra (Affra) was a daughter of the king of Cyprus. He was defeated in a battle. For that reason, while still young, she went with her mother Hilaria from their home to Rome. And Hilaria, her mother, gave her up to the goddess Venus for the attainment of her favors. Sine this Venus was a woman of Cyprus. On account of her beauty it was said that she was a goddess and a temple was built for her on Cyprus. Afterwards they came to Augsburg (Augustum), and there Afra gave herself up to vile uses and carnal business. During the time of the Diocletian persecution the bishop Narcissus came into her house, having no knowledge of her way of life, for purposes of prayer, as was his custom. Afra wondered about this unusual guest. But when she recognized him as a Christian bishop, she confessed herself a vile woman. And she was drawn away from her vile mode of life and was baptized. Dionysius, the brother of Hilarius, there himself was made a bishop. Afterwards she was seized by Gaius, the judge, and given her choice to sacrifice to the gods or endure great punishment. And as she refused to sacrifice, she was led to an island in the river Lech (Lici), not far from Augusta, and there she was tied to a tree, and burned. And as the fire was lighted she gave praise and thanks to God. Afterwards Hilaria, Digna, Eunomia and Eutropia were also burned because of their constancy in the faith. And the blessed Afra suffered (her martyrdom) on the seventh of the Ides of August.

Afra is another interesting, though somewhat perplexing, martyr. First, there may be two of her, for the Brescians honor, as their patroness, a Saint Afra. With regard to the identity of the saint, there is some inexplicable confusion. We are here concerned, not with the patron saint of the Brescians, but with the patroness of Augsburg (Augusta). She was a woman of that city who had for a long time followed the profession of courtesan; and it happened that a certain holy man whose name was Narcissus, flying from the persecution which affected the Christians in the reign of Aurelian, took refuge in the home of Afra without knowing that she was abandoned to sin. When she found out that he was a Christian priest, she was overcome with fear and respect, and by a feeling of shame for her profession. He took the opportunity to exhort her to repentance. She listened to him, weeping, and fell at his feet, entreating to be baptized. He, knowing that Christ had never rejected a repentant sinner, administered baptism, and assured her of forgiveness.

And Afra had three handmaidens, who like herself, had led a dissolute life. She brought them to the feet of the Christian priest, and begged him to instruct them also in the way of salvation. Meanwhile those who were in pursuit of the priest came to search for him in the dwelling of Afra; but she concealed him, first in her own house, and then in that of her mother Hilaria; and by her help he afterward escaped to his own country, which was Spain.

But the idolators seized upon Afra, and accused her of having assisted in the escape of a Christian, and of being a Christian herself. The judge, whose name was Gaius, and who had known her former profession, was astonished at the modesty and dignity with which she replied to his questions, and acknowledged herself to be a follower of Christ. And continuing further in her faith, she was condemned to be burned alive. So they tied her to a stake, and heaped round her a pile of vine-branches. Then she lifted up her eyes to heaven and prayed. Her spirit departed, and she was carried to heaven by angels. A few days afterward her mother Hilaria, and her three maidens, Digna, Eunomia and Eutropia, also perished for their faith.

Pantaleon, an illustrious man and one who was quite learned in the art of medicine, was himself crucified for the sake of Christ at this time in the city of Nicomedia. He was the son of a senator, and while still a boy learning about medicine. Taken to the palace by his teacher, he was praised for his beauty. To him Hermolaus the priest was promising that if he would believe in the Christ, he would be able to heal without medicine. He (i.e., Pantaleon) was afterwards baptized by him (i.e., Hermolaus). In the presence of his father he made a blind man to see; and he converted both to the faith. Maximianus ordered him to be brought before him, and there he healed a man of the gout. Afterwards, for the sake of Christ he was put on a rack and lamentably burned. Then he was set in a cauldron of seething lead. But the Lord appeared and the lead cooled. At length he was thrown to wild beasts; yet they did not harm him. Seeing this, many were converted to the Christian faith, and these the emperor ordered beheaded. Finally Pantaleon himself, with his master Hermolaus and others completed their martyrdom by the blow of the sword on the 5th of the Kalends of August.[According to legend Pantaleon (Panthaleon) was born at Nicomedia in Bithynia, the son of a pagan father and a Christian mother, and having made himself master of all the learning and science of the Greeks, he attached himself particularly to the study of medicine. He became the favorite of the Emperor Maximian. At court he was in danger of forgetting all his Christian precepts that he had learned from his mother. But a venerable Christian priest named Hermolaus undertook to instruct him, and Pantaleon became an ardent Christian. When the persecution of the Christians broke out, knowing he could not conceal himself, Pantaleon prepared for his doom. In the midst of his work of healing the sick and the blind, and restoring the dead, he was accused before the emperor, and was beheaded with his aged master Hermolaus. But Pantaleon they first bound to an olive tree, and according to legend, no sooner had his blood bathed in the roots of the tree than it burst forth into leaves and fruit.]


Sebastian (Sebianus) is represented in fur cap and medieval robes. He holds a group of arrows, symbolic of his martydom.


Lucia (Lucia Martyr) is represented with a nimbus and crown of martyrdom. A sword pierces her throat from left to right, as she (somewhat disturbingly) maintains her attitude of prayer.


Vitus, patron saint of dancers and stage-players, had a palm branch in his right hand. In his left reposes a book upon which a cock struts. The origin of this bird as one of his attributes is a disputed point. It appears that from very ancient times it was the custom to offer up a cock to him; and so late as the beginning of the 18th century this was done by the common people of Prague.


Afra (Affra and Hilaria) is a single portrait of Afra alone. She appears bound to a narrow pillar. It is symbolic of her martyrdom at the stake.


Pantaleon, physician and martyr, is portrayed with his hands above his head. Through his hands a huge nail has been driven, which would seem to pierce his head also, although the legend is that his hands were nailed to the tree at which he suffered martyrdom.