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Devotion towards Santo Stefano

Not far from the Palace of Baldu there is the church dedicated to Santo Stefano - maybe a place of worship for the same name village which was mentioned during the fourteenth century - whose marble statue is kept in the Diocesan Museum of Luogosanto (fig. 1).

Fig. 1 - Luogosanto, church of Santo Stefano: cult statue of the protomartyr (photo by Unicity S.p.A.).

This cult was widespread particularly because the saint, who lived during the first century A.D., was the first Christian martyr, the reason why he is celebrated the day after the birth of Christ (December 26th). His origins are unknown, perhaps Greek, because of the name (which means Crowned), and because in the Acts of the Apostles (6-7) it seems that Stephen was a point of reference for the Hellenic community. In order to end a controversy which arose between Greeks and Jews in the city of Jerusalem for the daily distribution of alms to widows, the proposal was made to choose seven men from the population “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” called deacons: one of the chosen was Stefano (fig. 2).

Fig. 2 - Vatican, Apostolic Palace, the Chapel of Nicholas: Saint Stephen receives the diaconate and distributes alms, fresco by Beato Angelico (between 1447 and about 1448) (from

While carrying out his duties, he performed miracles, preached and converted to the faith in Christ the many people who came to Jerusalem, thereby antagonising the Hellenistic Jews: they accused him "of blasphemy against Moses and against God" (6:11) and they brought him before the Sanhedrin around 36 A.D. The condemned man was led out of the city to be stoned whilst praying. The discovery of the relics took place in 415.

Usually the martyr is represented young and without a beard, dressed with the diaconal dalmatic and the stole. His special attributes are stones, in memory of his death, which appear more often from the twelfth century (fig. 3), or the rocky ground, which refers to the place where the stoning took place; more generic ones which aim to certify a death because of upholding the faith are the Book of the Gospels, the symbol of the Diaconate, or the palm of martyrdom. The statue in the church of Luogosanto depicts the saint kneeling with his arms outstretched in prayer whilst welcoming martyrdom.

Fig. 3 - Florence, Horne Museum: Santo Stefano, painted in tempera and gold on wood (84x54 cm) by Giotto (approximately 1330-1335 ) (



  • A. BORRELLI, s.v. Santo Stefano primo martire in Santi, Beati e testimoni. Disponibile on line:
  • F. FRESI, La Gallura e le sue chiese. Viaggio tra sagre e antichi santuari, in Messaggero sardo, 2002, p. 40.
  • G. D. GORDINI, s.v. Stefano, protomartire, santo, in Bibliotheca Sanctorum, XI, Roma 1998, coll. 1376-1387.
  • M. LIVERANI, s.v. Iconografia, in Bibliotheca Sanctorum, XI, Roma 1998, coll. 1387-1392.
  • F. PINNA, Un villaggio medioevale nel cuore della Gallura, in Almanacco Gallurese, 10, 2002-2003, pp. 77-84.