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Wooden statue of St Sebastian, Germany, 1520-1530

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Many Christians have long believed that the saints are able to plead with God on their behalf and that particular saints can give protection against specific illnesses. St Sebastian, an Italian Christian, was martyred for his beliefs in 288 CE. He was first shot through with arrows before being beaten to death. St Sebastian is considered to be a protector from plague. He is said to have delivered the European cities of Rome, Milan and Lisbon from the disease. Other theories suggest that the association may be due to the fact that the pain and certain death caused by plague are similar to the arrows that pierced the saint. St Sebastian is also patron saint of archers and soldiers. He was particularly revered in the Rhineland area of Germany.

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Glossary: statue

A sculpture in the round representing human or animal figures or small figure groups; a statuette is a smaller sculpture.

Glossary: patron saint

A saint believed to protect or guide a place or particular group of people.

Glossary: plague

An acute contagious fever with high levels of mortality. Both the 'Black Death' that swept Europe in the 1340s and the Great Plague of London in 1665 are believed to have been bubonic plague.