Saint Apollinaris: The Iconography

In Ravenna, the natal day Not the birthday but the day this saint died and was “born again” into Heaven of St. Apollinaris, bishop. After the Apostle Peter ordained him in Rome and sent him to Ravenna, he underwent many different tortures. Afterwards, he preached in Emilia and converted many people from the worship of idols. When he returned to Ravenna he suffered a glorious martyrdom under Caesar Vespasian. Roman Martyrology for July 23

According to the Passion of Apollinaris of Ravenna, the saint was commissioned by St. Peter to preach in Ravenna, where he had great success and converted a goodly portion of the population, who were much impressed by his preaching and the many miracles he performed. The pagans and their leaders, however, were enraged. They had him tortured on several occasions and exiled him to the lands across the Adriatic. When he returned and persisted in preaching against paganism, he was beaten to death by a pagan mob. The story is also told in a 13th-century stained glass window in Troyes: see the second picture at right and the description page, which explains the episode represented in each panel.

The first picture at right is the most famous image of St. Apollinaris, in the mosaic behind the altar at Sant'Apollinare in Classe. He is dressed for the celebration of the divine service and wears the pallium that signifies a metropolitan An archbishop with authority over a number of adjacent dioceses . Everett (143-44) suggests that the tonsure and the white hair and beard are intended to associate him with contemporary images of St. Peter (example) at a time when the churches of Ravenna and Rome were closing ranks against heretical tendencies in other centers.

Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University, revised 2015-08-02, 2017-01-24.


Detail from the apse mosaic at Sant'Apollinare in Clase, Ravenna (See the description page for the apse.)

Thirteenth-century window with scenes drawn from the Passion (See the de­scrip­tion page for an ex­pla­na­tion of the scenes.)


  • Feast day: July 23
  • The story takes place in the 1st century; the Passion was written probably in the 6th century, possibly in the 7th.


  • The Passion of Apollinaris of Ravenna. In Everett, 154-169.
  • Golden Legend #97 (html or pdf) appears to be an abbreviated version of the Passion, with no material not found there.
  • Butler, III, 167-68.
  • Apollinaris' vita in The Roman Breviary: English translation, III, 752-53; Latin original, 941-43
  • Acta Sanctorum, July vol. 5, 328-85