Books > History > World history > BCE to 500 CE
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Please note that the content of this book primarily consists of
articles available from Wikipedia or other free sources online. A
cephalophore (from the Greek for "head-carrier") is a saint who is
generally depicted carrying his or her own head; in art, this was
usually meant to signify that the subject in question had been
martyred by beheading. Handling the halo in this circumstance
offers a unique challenge for the artist. Some put the halo where
the head used to be; others have the saint carrying the halo along
with the head. The topos can be traced to two sources. In a homily
on Saints Juventinus and Maximinus, John Chrysostom asserted that
the severed head of a martyr was more terrifying to the devil than
when it was able to speak. "He then compared soldiers showing their
wounds received in battle to martyrs holding their severed head in
their hands and presenting it to Christ." The other source was the
Western vita of Saint Denis, founder of the see of Paris, who was
identified in the text with Dionysius the Areopagite.
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