From St. Sebastian, who was killed by hundreds of arrows, to St. Lawrence, who was burned alive, martyrs are remembered for the brutal deaths they endured. But martyrdom itself is not just a brutal act of violence. It is indeed considered the ultimate victory of good against evil, with martyrs choosing to give up their very lives for God. For this reason, artists often opt for positive symbols when it comes to symbolize martyrdom in art such as palm leaves or laurel crowns.
In medieval art it was common for painters to feature images of the martyr’s death with a winged figure, symbolizing Victory, carrying a crown. For example, the mosaic on the right side of the nave inside Ravenna’s Sant’Apollinare Nuovo church features a procession of virgin martyrs holding crowns and white petal wreaths in their hands. Between each martyr stands an iconic representation of a palm tree.