Saint Eustace: The Iconography

In Rome the passion Passion: The suffering and death of a Christian martyr, or a text relating that suffering and death. of the holy martyrs Eustace and Theopistis his wife, with their two sons Agapitus and Theopistus. Under the Emperor Hadrian they were condemned to the beasts but God saw that they were not harmed. Then they were locked into a burning-hot brass bull and achieved martyrdom. – Roman Martyrology for September 20

The Golden Legend says Eustace was a pagan cavalry officer to whom Christ appeared in the form of a deer with a crucifix between its antlers, as in the second picture at right. This led to his conversion, for which he was executed on the order of the Emperor Hadrian.
The deer and cross atop the Church of Sant'Eustachio in Rome (Photo by the author)
The deer and cru­ci­fix appear as St. Eu­stace's em­blem in por­traits such as the one at right and on the roof­top of his church in Rome.

That church also has a large paint­ing of St. Eu­stace's mar­tyr­dom. He was burned alive inside a bra­zen bull.

In the 15th century Eustace was one of the 14 Holy Helpers of popular devotion.


  • Lived in the 2nd century
  • In 1969 the Roman Catholic Church suppressed his September 20 feast.


Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University, revised 2015-11-02.


Detail from Albrecht Dürer's Paumgartner Altarpiece (See the description page)

Pisanello, The Vision of St. Eustace (See the description page)

Francesco Ferdinandi, The Martyrdom of St. Eustace (See the description page)


  • Deer with a cross in its antlers