Saint Adrian of Nicomedia

Aug 04, 2021 / Written by: Tonia Long

Feast September 8

Convert and martyr, Patron Saint of arms dealers, butchers, guards and soldiers
Death: 306 A.D.

Saint Adrian was the chief military saint of Northern Europe for many ages, second only to Saint George, and is much revered in the north of France, Germany and Flanders. He is usually represented armed, with an anvil in his hands or at his feet.

Saint Adrian of Nicomedia
Saint Adrian of Nicomedia. Exhibit in the Higgins Armory Museum, 100 Barber Avenue, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA.

Adrian and his wife Natalia lived in Nicomedia during the time of Emperor Maximian in the early fourth century. At twenty-eight years of age, Adrian was head of the praetorium at the imperial court of Nicomedia in present-day Turkey. He and his wife were both pagans.

Placed in charge of the torture of a group of Christians, Adrian was impressed by their courage and resignation to their sufferings. He asked them what reward they expected to receive from God. They replied, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)

He was so amazed at their courage that he publicly confessed his faith, though he had not yet been baptized. From that point onward, Adrian refused to carry out his orders against those proclaiming their Christian Faith. He was then immediately imprisoned with them and suffered excruciating tortures. He was forbidden visitors, but accounts state that his wife Natalia came to visit him, dressed as a boy, to ask for his prayers when he entered Heaven. She, too, converted to the Christianity, but secretly. Natalia, who was present at his death, comforted Saint Adrian in his agony.

The executioners wanted to burn the bodies of the dead, but a storm arose and quenched the fire. Natalia recovered one of Adrian's severed hands, and took it to Argyropolis near Constantinople. She fled there in order to escape the advances of an imperial official who wanted to marry her. She died there peacefully on December 1.

Saint Adrian was proclaimed patron of prison guards, correctional officers and butchers, the last presumably due to the tortures he suffered.

Header Image: Pen and ink by Hans Holbein on display in the Louvre, Paris. This drawing depicts St. Adrian of Nicomedia. The sword and anvil allude to the manner of his death: his hands were cut off and his legs broken on an anvil. The lion at his feet is the lion that by legend refused to attack him.