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. After a long series of misfortunes he re-entered the military and won an important battle for the Emperor Hadrian. But when Hadrian ordered a feast to honor him Eustace refused to sacrifice to the gods. Angered, the emperor ordered that he and his family be imprisoned with a lion. When the lion bowed to the family and did them no harm, Hadrian had them placed in a brass bull with a fire set beneath it, as seen in the third picture at right.
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, which also has a large painting of St. Eustace's martyrdom.
In the 15th century Eustace was one of the 14 Holy Helpers of popular devotion.
Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University, revised 2015-11-02.