Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Date of Award

January 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name



Art and Art History

First Advisor

Margaret Franklin


The altarpiece for the high altar of the Benedictine basilica of Santa Giustina in Padua, painted by Paolo Veronese around 1575, depicts the martyrdom of Justina, an Early Christian saint. While art historians often discuss late sixteenth-century images of martyrdom within the general historical context of the Counter-Reformation, St. Justina's increased prominence during this period was also connected to a more specific historical event: the Battle of Lepanto of 1571. The naval victory of the Catholic Holy League alliance over the Ottoman Turks on the saint's feast day (October 7th) increased the popularity of the saint's cult within the Venetian Republic. While Veronese's monumental altarpiece undoubtedly reflected this promotion, the work also managed to invoke the ancient and medieval history of the local commune of Padua. The painting's use of martial imagery linked the various geopolitical interests involved in the saint's cult (Padua, Venice) at the same time that such imagery helped bridge the historical gap between late antiquity and the contemporary world. I argue that long-established written and visual connections between martyrdom and military conflict guided viewers toward an understanding of the saint as a significant participant in local history and politics.