Saint Sebastian is venerated for having spread Christianity throughout Rome, himself serving as a Roman soldier, and for having encouraged captive Christians to keep to their faith. Saint Sebastian is the patron saint of athletes and soldiers.
Saint Sebastian's veneration can be traced to the fourth century where he was a popular figure of worship in Milan, Italy. He has remained popular since and is especially beloved of soldiers around the world who consider him a token of bravery and fortitude both for his energy in life and for his stoicism in death.
A major factor in Saint Sebastian's veneration is his martyrdom. The purges enacted by Emperor Diocletian against the Christians living under his law swept Sebastian up. He was arrested for spreading Christianity, tied to a stake in a barren field, and shot full of arrows by ranks of his fellow Roman soldiers. Legend holds that Sebastian was rescued by a kind widow and returned to health, but that when he met Diocletian to denounce him he was beaten to death on the emperor's orders.
Sebastian's death was a widely told story and garnered much sympathy for early Christians. It remains an important part of his saintly mystique and a prime driver behind his canonization in the eyes of the Catholics of the world.