An especially appropriate presence in this 13th-century church at the north end of town is St. Sebastian, the “saint who was martyred twice.” In 1464, a plague swept through San Gimignano and, when it finally passed, the town hired Benozzo Gozzoli to paint a thankful scene. The Florentine shows St. Sebastian getting some divine help to fend off the harmful effects of the arrows soldiers are shooting into his torso. In real life, the 3rd-century early Christian could not stay out of harm’s way. When Sebastian proclaimed his faith, the emperor Diocletian ordered that he be taken to a field and shot full of arrows (for which he has rather cynically been named the patron saint of archers). Sebastian miraculously survived and was nursed back to health. Once back on his feet, he stood on a step and harangued Diocletian as he passed in royal procession, and the emperor had him bludgeoned to death on the spot. San Gimignano, too, saw hard times again, despite its protective fresco. As a stop on trade and pilgrimage routes, the town was especially susceptible to the plague, which continued to decimate the population time and again. Gozzoli also frescoed the choir behind the main altar floor-to-ceiling with 17 scenes from the life of St. Augustine, a worldly well-traveled scholar who, upon having to make the decision to give up his concubine, famously prayed, “Grant me continence and chastity but not yet.” The scenes are straightforward (without a great deal of religious symbolism) and rich in landscape and architectural detail.
San Gimignano› Attraction
Our Rating Hours Apr–Oct daily 10am–noon and 3–7pm; Nov–Dec daily 10am–noon and 3–6pm; Jan–Mar Mon 4–6pm, Tues–Sun 10am–noon and 3–6pm Phone 0577-907-012 Other Free admission
MapPiazza Sant’Agostino San Gimignano
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