Listers, each year on December 28th the Roman Catholic Church celebrates those who died instead of the infant Christ. The “Holy Innocents” are recorded in St. Matthew’s Gospel 2:16-18:

Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry; and sending killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying: A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

Catholic Encyclopedia explains, “The Church venerates these children as martyrs (flores martyrum); they are the first buds of the Church killed by the frost of persecution; they died not only for Christ, but in his stead (St. Aug., “Sermo 10us de sanctis”). In connection with them the Apostle recalls the words of the Prophet Jeremias (xxxi, 15) speaking of the lamentation of Rachel.”1


“The Holy Innocents” by Giotto, c. 1304-6.


“Massacre of the Innocents” a 10th century illuminated manuscript.


“The Massacre of the Innocents at Bethlehem” by Matteo di Giovanni, 1488.


Cornelis van Haarlem, “Massacre of the Innocents,” 1590.


Peter Paul Rubens, “Massacre of the Innocents” c. 1610-12.


François-Joseph Navez, “Massacre of the Innocents,” 1824.


Haarlem, Cornelis “Massacre of the Innocents,” 1591.


Tintoretto, “Massacre of the Innocents,” 1587.


Bruegel the Elder, “Massacre of the Innocents,” 1565-7.


“The Massacre of the Innocents” by Brueghel the Younger, 1638.

  1. Sources: The introduction is taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia article Holy Innocents, the bulk of the artwork is taken from the Massacre of the Innocents wikipedia article, and the rest of the pieces are from various other sources. ↩︎