Michael Damaskinos, Saints Serge and Bacchus with St. Justina of Padua

Circa 1571-93
Egg tempera on wood
Byzantine Museum of Antivouniotissa, Corfu, Greece

The feast day for these three saints is October 7, the date of the Holy League's decisive victory over the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto. The beast beneath their feet presumably represents the Turkish forces at Lepanto. Its three heads may refer to the enemy's three leaders, an Ottoman admiral and the governors of Alexandria and Algiers (Young, 382).

Justina's attribute, a gladius (short sword) is in her right hand. All three saints were martyrs. The men's martyrdom is referenced by the crowns and palm branches being handed down to the men by the angels and Saints Peter and Paul. Justina already has her palm, and Christ is handing down her crown. She also appears in the upper register of a 1572 Veronese painting of the battle, praying for victory with Saints Peter, Roch, and Mark.

The Roman Martyrology for October 7 summarizes the story of SS. Serge and Bacchus: "In Euphratensis Or Augusta Euphratesia, A Roman province stretching across parts of modern Turkey, Syria, and Iraq the martyrs Sergius and Bacchus, Roman nobles, [died] under the Emperor Maximianus. Bacchus's sinews were cut up so that his whole body was in pieces; he gave up the ghost confessing Christ. Sergius was put in nail-studded boots, and when he stayed fixed in the faith and kept witnessing he was ordered beheaded. The place where blessed Sergius died is called Sergiopolis after him and is honored by many Christian pilgrims because of the notable miracles there."

The date of the icon would have to be between Lepanto (1571), and the artist's death (1592 or 1593).

More of Justina of Padua

Source: Wikimedia Commons