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September 2006

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s Saint Justa

Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2006;8(5):354-355. doi:10.1001/archfaci.8.5.354

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo's exquisite three-quarter–length painting of Saint Justa is one of his most beautiful devotional paintings and helped bolster his fame as the preeminent religious painter of the Spanish Golden Age, which spanned the 16th and 17th centuries. Saint Justa and her sister, Saint Rufina, were third-century Christian martyrs from the town of Triana, Spain, near the city of Seville. According to legend, the sisters were selling pottery on the streets of the city when a Roman procession passed them and demanded that they sacrifice to their gods. When they refused, the Romans broke their pottery, whereupon Justa and Rufina smashed the pagan idol. Justa and Rufina were arrested and tortured; Justa died in prison, and her body was thrown down a well; Rufina was later martyred at the amphitheater of Seville. They were proclaimed patronesses of Seville in the 16th century after they miraculously saved the famous La Giralda, the 12th century bell tower of the Cathedral of Seville, during an earthquake in 1504. This event was celebrated in a 16th century couplet, “The tower of Seville is falling, Saints Justa and Rufina are holding it up.” Devotion to their cult declined after the 16th century, but Seville's civil and ecclesiastical authorities again invoked their aid during the devastating plague of 1649 that killed almost half of the city's population.Article