Franciscan Martyrs of the Holy Land

Clock wise from the top left are St. Nicholas of Tavelic, St. Deodato, St. Stephen of Cuneo, and St. Peter of Narbonne. In 1384 Nicholas and Deodat volunteered for a mission to the Holy Land where they became custodians of the holy places, aided pilgrims, and studied Arabic.

For many years they followed the first missionary approach advocated by St. Francis they lived quiet lives and gave witness to Christ. In 1391 along with Stephen of Cuneo and peter of Narbonne, they decided to try the second approach and openly preached to the Muslims in the Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem. Given a chance to recant their words, they refused.

They were beaten, imprisoned and finally beheaded. Out of 158 Franciscans who have been martyred in the Holy Land since they became custodians of the shrines in  1335, Nicholas and his companions are the only four that have been recognized as saints.


Tau Cross – at the top center is the tau cross, named for the Greek letter it represents. It is generally recognized as the symbol of St. Francis and his order. In the lower left, St Peter also holds a tau cross.

Crown of Thorns – Surrounding the tau cross at the top is the Crown of Thorns, a reminder of the sacrifices we are called to make as Christians.

Sword – St. Nicholas holds a sword, the instrument of their martyrdom.

Palm Branch – St. Deodat holds a palm brach, a symbol of the ultimate victory of martyrdom.

Book – St. Stephen holds a book, a symbol of their role as preachers of the word.

Halo – All four saints are represented with halos, the traditional symbol of Saints. Halos are an artistic representation of the holy aura that surrounds and emanates from holy persons.

Jerusalem Cross – The “Five Fold Cross” or the “Jerusalm Cross” has several meanings. It represents the five wounds of Christ and was adopted as the symbol for the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. In this context it is a symbol of the Franciscan custody of the shrines in the Holy Land.

Acanthus – For Christians the pointed leaves of the acanthus represent the awareness of the pain caused by sin, however it also carries over from pagan tradition an association with immortality. Though we are aware of the pain caused by sin, due to our fallen nature, we know that Christ holds out to us the promise of eternal life.

private commission