Gospel accounts of the Crucifixion tell of a Roman soldier who pierced Jesus' side after his death and also of a centurion who said, "surely this was the Son of God." The Acts of Pilate (possibly as early as the second century) conflate these two persons into one named Longinus. Later hagiography that was subsumed into the Golden Legend says that some of the blood that spilled from Christ's side got into Longinus' eyes and cured his blindness; the Legend also says St. Longinus converted to Christianity and was martyred in Cæsarea in Cappadocia.
The earliest known representation of St. Longinus is in the image of the Crucifixion in the Rabbula Gospels (Syriac, 6th century). In the West, late medieval Crucifixions often show him pointing to Jesus, as if to say, "surely this was the Son of God" (example).
St. Longinus is only rarely seen in separate portraits, the most famous of these being the Bernini statue at left. Naturally, the attribute that Bernini provided to St. Longinus was his lance.
A curious modern expression of the Longinus story is a series of pulp novels by a retired U.S. Army sergeant named Barry Sadler. In the novels Longinus becomes immortal and passes the centuries as an "eternal soldier."
Feast day: March 15
At left, Bernini's Longinus in St. Peter's, Rome
A modern interpretation at the Sagrada Familia
The centurion: Matthew (cached), Mark (cached), Luke (cached)Hagiography:
The piercing of Jesus' side: John 19:31-37 (cached)