The designation ‘saint’ is found in religions worldwide and means that someone is close to the godhead and to spiritual redemption. In Christianity the person who has accepted Christ’s salvation is considered holy. From the 10th century, the Catholic Church in Rome decreed that Christians could only be called saints if they had followed Christ in their way of life or died a martyr’s death. These exemplary Christians were first ‘beatified’ and subsequently ‘canonized’. They could be biblical kings, prophets and apostles, as well as early Christian writers (church fathers), martyrs and contemporary monks. Believers worshipped and supplicated the saints according to their particular speciality. For example, George was the patron saint of knights and crusaders because of his heroic battle with a dragon.

In the early Middle Ages pilgrims visited the graves of martyrs. Later, parts of saints or their possessions came to be spread far and wide and pilgrims trekked to the churches where bones, hair or pieces of fabric were kept as relics. Saints in Christian art can usually be identified by their aureole (halo) and one or more attributes.



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