Saint Stephen 1476, Carlo Crivelli
This panel showing Saint Stephen is part of the large 'Demidoff Altarpiece' made for the high altar of San Domenico in Ascoli Piceno, east central Italy.
Saint Stephen was the first Christian martyr. He was a deacon (a lay assistant to the priest) of the first Christian community in 1st-century Palestine and was responsible for a daily distribution of food to the poor.
Accused of blasphemy against Moses and God, Stephen was brought to trial. Although not a priest, Stephen was well read in the Scriptures and argued against the religious council. As he spoke in defense of his belief in Christ as the Messiah, those watching him saw the face of an angel. Enraged, the council stopped the trial and took him out of the city where he was stoned to death.
In paintings he is shown in a deacon's robe and with the rocks used to stone him. His other identifying attributes are a palm (signifying martyrdom) and a book (a reminder of his learnedness).
O glorious saint, faithful imitator of Jesus Christ martyr in will and in reality, so full of charity, zeal, love, and purity, deign to intercede for us poor exiles; you who are so high in the favor of God, we do entreat you to procure for us a little spark of that divine love which animated your heart, that we too one day may have the happiness of seeing our God face to face.
Oh! obtain for us that virtue for which you were so eminent, and which in our holy vocation is particularly required–Charity. Amen.