Four Crowned Martyrs

The designation Four Crowned Martyrs or Four Holy Crowned Ones (Latin, Sancti Quatuor Coronati) refers to nine individuals venerated as martyrs and saints in the Catholic Church. The nine saints are divided into two groups:

  1. Severus (or Secundius), Severian(us), Carpophorus (Carpoforus), Victorinus (Victorius, Vittorinus)
  2. Claudius, Castorius, Symphorian (Simpronian), Nicostratus, and Simplicius

According to the Golden Legend, the names of the members of the first group were not known at the time of their death "but were learned through the Lord’s revelation after many years had passed."[1] They were called the "Four Crowned Martyrs" because their names were unknown ("crown" referring to the crown of martyrdom).

The Four Crowned Martyrs
The Four Crowned Saints, Nanni di Banco, Orsanmichele, Florence, ca. 1415.
Born3rd century AD
Diedbetween 287 and 305

Castra Albana (1st Group)
Sava River, Pannonia (2nd Group)
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
FeastAugust 8 (Group 1)
November 8 (Group 2)
Patronagesculptors, stonemasons, stonecutters; against fever; cattle

First group

Severus (or Secundius), Severian(us), Carpophorus, and Victorinus were martyred at Rome or Castra Albana, according to Christian tradition.[2]

According to the Passion of St. Sebastian, the four saints were soldiers (specifically cornicularii, or clerks, in charge of all the regiment's records and paperwork) who refused to sacrifice to Aesculapius, and therefore were killed by order of Emperor Diocletian (284-305), two years after the death of the five sculptors, mentioned below. The bodies of the martyrs were buried in the cemetery of Santi Marcellino e Pietro on the fourth mile of the via Labicana by Pope Miltiades and St. Sebastian (whose skull is preserved in the church).

Second group

The second group, according to Christian tradition, were sculptors from Sirmium who were killed in Pannonia. They refused to fashion a pagan statue for the Emperor Diocletian or to offer sacrifice to the Roman gods. The Emperor ordered them to be placed alive in lead coffins and thrown into the river in about 287. Simplicius was killed with them.[1] According to the Catholic Encyclopedia,

[T]he Acts of these martyrs, written by a revenue officer named Porphyrius probably in the fourth century, relates of the five sculptors that, although they raised no objections to executing such profane images as Victoria, Cupid, and the Chariot of the Sun, they refused to make a statue of Æsculapius for a heathen temple. For this they were condemned to death as Christians. They were put into leaden caskets and drowned in the River Save. This happened towards the end of 305.[3]

The references in the text of the martyrs' passio to porphyry quarrying and masonry located at the 'porphyritic mountain' indicate that the story's setting is misplaced; there are no porphyry quarries in Pannonia and the only porphyry quarry worked in the ancient world is in Egypt. Mons Porphyrites was quarried to supply the rare and expensive imperial porphyry for the emperor's building works and statuary, for which it was exclusively set aside. Mons Porphyrites is in the Thebaid, which was a centre of Christian erimiticism in Late Antqiuity. The emperor Diocletian did indeed commission the extensive use of porphyry in his many building projects. Diocletian also visited the Thebaid during his reign, though he was more usually associated with the Balkans, which might explain why the story's location was transposed to Pannonia over time.[4]

Joint veneration

When the names of the first group were learned, it was decreed that they should be commemorated with the second group.[1] The bodies of the first group were interred by St. Sebastian and Pope Melchiades (Miltiades) at the fourth milestone on the Via Labicana, in a sandpit where there rested the remains of other executed Christians.

It is unclear where the names of the second group actually come from. The tradition states that Melchiades asked that the saints be commemorated as Claudius, Nicostratus, Simpronian, and Castorius. These same names actually are identical to names shared by converts of Polycarp the priest, in the legend of St. Sebastian.[5] According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, however, "this report has no historic foundation. It is merely a tentative explanation of the name Quatuor Coronati, a name given to a group of really authenticated martyrs who were buried and venerated in the catatomb of Saint Marcellinus and Pietro, the real origin of which, however, is not known. They were classed with the five martyrs of Pannonia in a purely external relationship."[3]

The bodies of the martyrs are kept in four ancient sarcophagi in the crypt of Santi Marcellino e Pietro. According to a lapid dated 1123, the head of one of the four martyrs is buried in Santa Maria in Cosmedin.

Confusion and conclusions

The rather confusing story of the four crowned martyrs was well known in Renaissance Florence, principally as told in the thirteenth-century Golden Legend by Jacopo da Voragine. It appears that the original four martyrs were beaten to death by order of the emperor Diocletian (r. AD 284-305). Their story became conflated with that of a group of five stonecarvers, also martyred by Diocletian, in this case because they refused to carve an image of a pagan idol. Due to their profession as sculptors, the five early Christian martyrs were an obvious choice for the guild of stonemasons, but their number seems often to have been understood to be four, as in this case.[6]

Problems arise with determining the historicity of these martyrs because one group contains five names instead of four. Alban Butler believed that the four names of group one, which the Roman Martyrology and the Breviary say were revealed as those of the Four Crowned Martyrs, were borrowed from the martyrology of the Diocese of Albano Laziale, which kept their feast on August 8, not November 8.[5] These four "borrowed" martyrs were not buried in Rome, but in the catacomb of Albano; their feast was celebrated on August 7 or August 8, the date under which is cited in the Roman Calendar of Feasts of 354.[3] The Catholic Encyclopedia wrote that the "martyrs of Albano have no connection with the Roman martyrs".[3]

The double tradition may have arisen because a second passio had to be written. It was written to account for the fact that there were five saints in group two rather than four. Thus, the story concerning group one was simply invented, and the story describes the death of four martyrs, who were soldiers from Rome rather than Pannonian stonemasons. The Bollandist Hippolyte Delehaye calls this invented tradition "l'opprobre de l'hagiographie" (the disgrace of hagiography).[5]

Delehaye, after extensive research, determined that there was actually only one group of martyrs – the stonemasons of group two - whose relics were taken to Rome.[5] One scholar has written that "the latest research tends to agree" with Delehaye's conclusion.[5]

The Roman Martyrology gives the stonemasons Simpronianus, Claudius, Nicostratus, Castorius and Simplicius as the martyrs celebrated on November 8, and the Albano martyrs Secundus, Carpophorus, Victorinus and Severianus as celebrated on August 8.[7]

Basilica of Santi Quattro Coronati

Santi Quattro 0511-06
Basilica of Santi Quattro Coronati.

In the fourth and fifth centuries a basilica was erected and dedicated in honor of these martyrs on the Caelian Hill, probably in the general area where tradition located their execution. This became one of the titular churches of Rome, and was restored several times.


External video
Quattro Santi Coronati di Nanni di Banco, 1409 - 1417
Nanni di Banco's Four Crowned Saints, (3:21) Smarthistory

The Four Crowned Martyrs were venerated early in England, with Bede noting that there was a church dedicated to them in Canterbury. This veneration can perhaps be accounted by the fact that Augustine of Canterbury came from a monastery near the basilica of Santi Quattro Coronati in Rome or because their relics were sent from Rome to England in 601.[5] Their connection with stonemasonry in turn connected them to the Freemasons. One of the scholarly journals of the English Freemasons is called Ars Quatuor Coronatorum,[5] and the Stonemasons of Germany adopted them as patron saints of "Operative Masonry."[8]


Around 1385, they were depicted by Niccolò di Pietro Gerini.[9] Then in about 1415, Nanni di Banco fashioned a sculpture grouping the martyrs after he was commissioned by the Maestri di Pietra e Legname, the guild of stone and woodworkers, of which he was a member. These saints were the guild's patron saints. The work can be found in the Orsanmichele, in Florence.[10] Finally, they were also depicted by Filippo Abbiati.[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b c William Granger Ryan Jacobus, The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints (Princeton University Press, 1993), 291-2.
  2. ^ Latin Saints of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Rome
  3. ^ a b c d Kirsch, Johann Peter. "Four Crowned Martyrs." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 23 Jan. 2013
  4. ^ del Bufalo, Dario Porphyry: Red Imperial Porphyry, Power, and Religion Turin: Umberto Allemandi, 2012. pp. 65-82 ISBN 9788842221463
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Alban Butler, Sarah Fawcett Thomas, Paul Burns, "Butler's Lives of the Saints," (Continuum International Publishing Group, 1997), 63.
  6. ^ "Monumental Sculpture from Renaissance Florence", National Gallery of Art
  7. ^ Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7)
  8. ^ Masonic Dictionary | Four Crowned Martyrs |
  9. ^ in illo tempore » November 8, the Four Crowned Martyrs, with images of them and of Santi Quattro Coronati and the Chapel of Pope St Sylvester I
  10. ^ Images of Four Crowned Saints, Nanni di Banco, 1410-12. Digital Imaging Project: Art historical images of European and North American architecture and sculpture from classical Greek to Post-modern. Scanned from slides taken on site by Mary Ann Sullivan, Bluffton College
  11. ^ Rosa Giorgi, "Saints: A Year in Faith and Art" (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2006).

External links


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Four Crowned Martyrs (Nanni di Banco)

Four Crowned Martyrs is a sculptural group by Nanni di Banco. It forms part of a cycle of fourteen sculptures commissioned by the guilds of Florence for external niches of Orsanmichele, each sculpture showing that guild's patron saint. This sculpture was commissioned by the Arte dei Maestri di Pietra e Legname and completed around 1416-1417. It is in Apuan marble and is made of four figures of the Four Crowned Martyrs, the tallest of which is 2.03 m high. It is now indoors in the Museo di Orsanmichele, although a copy fills its original niche.

Great martyr

Great Martyr or Great-Martyr (Greek: μεγαλομάρτυς or μεγαλομάρτυρ, megalomartys or megalomartyr, from megas, "great" + "martyr") is a classification of saints who are venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Rite of Constantinople.

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Melchior (magus)

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Michael of Synnada

Michael of Synnada (Michael the Confessor) (died 818) was a bishop of Synnada from 784. He represented Byzantium in diplomatic missions to Harun al-Rashid and Charlemagne. He was exiled by Emperor Leo V the Armenian because of his opposition to iconoclasm. Honored by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, his feast day is May 23.

Nanni di Banco

Nanni d'Antonio di Banco (c. 1384 – 1421) was an Italian sculptor from Florence.He was born to artist Antonio Di Banco, who worked on the Cathedral of Florence in Florence, Italy . Historians have tried to determine the year of his birth between 1375 and 1390 based on colleagues. . Nanni di Banco seemed to have had a close relationship with well known artist Donatello. With this knowledge Nanni’s life timeline circles Donatello’s.

In February of 1405 Nanni was enrolled as an artist into the masons’ guild Arte Di Pietra e Legname. This guild allowed him to work in the cathedral directly where he began his work as a sculptor. Nanni and his father were commissioned to carve the Isaiah statue for the Cathedral .. Antonio was strictly a stone-carver resulting in the sculpture done by Nanni alone. Nanni was the Magister of him and his father’s workshop where Donatello was recruited from to build the sculpture David. Nanni was selected to carve a sculpture of St. Luke which took him 5 years to complete. He is mostly known for his work in transitioning from gothic to renaissance art. Nanni Di Banco Died in 1421.


A contemporary of Donatello and Lorenzo Ghiberti, Nanni was a sculptor in fifteenth-century Florence. He is well known for his sculpture group Four Crowned Martyrs (Quattro Santi Coronati) (1412–15) which was commissioned by the stone carvers and wood workers guild for the Church of Orsanmichele. The significance of this work is not only the striking naturalism and individuality of the figures, but also the complexity of construction of a sculpture group.

His Works

Nanni di Banco made a name for himself in the transition from International Gothic art to Renaissance art creating a path for Early Renaissance in Florence. Many of his works are displayed inside the Cathedral, the church and museum of Orsanmichele in Florence. His first major work was a statue of the Isaiah in 1408 for the Cathedral his father worked for.

The Quattro Coronati was created in 1416. At this time many artists wanted to depict pagan gods and saints but were hung. Nanni Di Banco decided to depict a dialogue between four saints, creating the title. The sculpture not only shows dialogue but also demonstrates the extent to which human behavior can be portrayed by stone. It is easy to find ancient Roman influence on the four sculptures. Many of the faces and togas look similar to ancient Roman republican sculptures. Artists were required to develop a sculpture for the outside of church St. Michele. Nanni’s colleague, Donatello, is credited to sculpt one saint. However, Nanni Di Banco portrays a dialogue in which only one of the four men is speaking and the rest are listening, not directly looking at the subject but still engaging in conversation.

San Luca is a marble sculpture, in works with the renaissance artist Donatello. Nanni Di Banco exploits the themes of humanism and a new proposal to human expression. Furthermore, we can understand how the influence of this movement was to express the outline and the human face through shadowing and posture.

Giorgio Vasari includes a biography of Nanni di Banco in his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects.


Nicostratus may refer to:

in fiction and mythology:

Nicostratus (mythology), a son of Menelaos by Helen of Troy or a slavewoman


Orsanmichele (Italian pronunciation: [orsamːiˈkɛːle]) (or "Kitchen Garden of St. Michael", from the contraction in Tuscan dialect of the Italian word orto) is a church in the Italian city of Florence. The building was constructed on the site of the kitchen garden of the monastery of San Michele, which no longer exists.

Located on the Via Calzaiuoli in Florence, the church was originally built as a grain market in 1337 by Francesco Talenti, Neri di Fioravante, and Benci di Cione. Between 1380 and 1404, it was converted into a church used as the chapel of Florence's powerful craft and trade guilds. On the ground floor of the square building are the 13th-century arches that originally formed the loggia of the grain market. The second floor was devoted to offices, while the third housed one of the city's municipal grain storehouses, maintained to withstand famine or siege. Late in the 14th century, the guilds were charged by the city to commission statues of their patron saints to embellish the facades of the church. The sculptures seen today are copies, the originals having been removed to museums (see below).

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Saint Claudius

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Claudius of Besançon (Saint Claude) (d. 699 AD), bishop and abbot

Saint Claudius, one of the Four Crowned Martyrs

Saint Claudius, martyr of León, Spain, one of the sons of Saint Marcellus of Tangier

Saints Claudius and Hilaria, two martyrs who were converted by Saints Chrysanthus and Daria


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Symphorian and Timotheus

Symphorian is also the name of one of the Four Crowned Martyrs. For various places in France and Belgium, see Saint-Symphorien.Symphorian (Symphorianus, Symphorien), Timotheus (Timothy), and Hippolytus of Rome are three Christian martyrs who though they were unrelated and were killed in different places and at different times, shared a common feast day in the General Roman Calendar from at least the 1568 Tridentine Calendar to the Mysterii Paschalis.

Virgin (title)

The title Virgin (Latin Virgo, Greek Παρθένος) is an honorific bestowed on female saints and blesseds in both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

Chastity is one of the seven virtues in Christian tradition, listed by Pope Gregory I at the end of the 6th century. In 1 Corinthians, Saint Paul suggests a special role for virgins or unmarried women (ἡ γυνὴ καὶ ἡ παρθένος ἡ ἄγαμος) as more suitable for "the things of the Lord" (μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου).

In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul alludes to the metaphor of the Church as Bride of Christ by addressing the congregation

"I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ".

In the theology of the Church Fathers, the prototype of the sacred virgin is Mary, the mother of Jesus, consecrated by the Holy Spirit at Annunciation.

Although not stated in the gospels, the perpetual virginity of Mary was widely upheld as a dogma by the Church Fathers from the 4th century.

Zechariah (Hebrew prophet)

Zechariah was a person in the Hebrew Bible and traditionally considered the author of the Book of Zechariah, the eleventh of the Twelve Minor Prophets. He was a prophet of the Kingdom of Judah, and, like the prophet Ezekiel, was of priestly extraction.

Virgin Mary
See also

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