Mrs. (Anna) Jameson.

Legends of the monastic orders, as represented in the fine arts. Forming the second series of Sacred and legendary art online

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aces with altar-pieces and frescos ; not only employing
native artists, but inviting to his capital others from
foreign countries ; among them an Italian, one of the
school of the Giotteschi, called from his birthplace
Tomaso di Mutina (i. e. Thomas of Modena). By this
painter, by Theodoric or Dietrich of Prague, and by
Karl Skreta Putter Ssotnowsky von Zaworzic — ("Phoe-
bus ! what a name ! " after the musical nomenclature
of Italian art !) — I saw, when I was in Bohemia and


Austria, various pictures, and am only sorry I did not
then pay more attention to the peculiar and national
subjects represented, — the legendary worthies and pa-
tron saints of Bohemia.

The earliest apostles of the Sclavonic tribes, the
Moravians, Bohemians, Hungarians, and Bulgarians,
were two Greek monks of the Order of St. Basil,
known as St. Cyril and St. Methodius, and connected
in a very interesting manner with the history of religious
art. Cyril was learned and eloquent, a philosopher and
a poet ; Methodius was considered an excellent painter
of that time, when his country produced the only
painters known. These two monks departed together,
by order of the patriarch of Constantinople, to preach
to the savage nations along the shores of the Danube.
Bogaris, the king or chief of Bulgaria, having heard of
the art of Methodius, required of him that he should
paint a picture in the hall of his palace, and that it
should be " something terrible," to impress his subjects
and vassals with awe. Methodius accordingly painted
the Day of Judgment, representing at the summit our
Lord seated in glory, and surrounded with angels ; on
his right, the resurrection of the blessed, and on his
left, the doom of sinners, swallowed up in flames and
tormented by the most hideous demons. "When the
king desired to have the interpretation of this "terrible "
picture, Cyril, who was as eloquent in words as Metho-
dius was in colors and forms, preached to the bar-
barian monarch and his attendants such a sermon as
converted them all on the spot. Their mission was
extended successfully through the surrounding nations.
"While Methodius painted the doctrines of the Christian
faith, Cyril explained them in the language of the
people, invented for them a written alphabet, translated
portions of the Gospel, and obtained from Pope Nicholas
the privilege of celebrating the divine service in the
Sclavonic tongues. These two saints are generally
represented together, as St. Methodius the painter, and
St. Cyril the philosopher. The former holds in his


hand a tablet, on which is a picture of the Day of Judg-
ment ; the latter holds a large book. Thus they stand
in a fine marble group in the cathedral at Prague.

Another missionary who carried the light of the
Gospel into Bohemia was St. Adelbert (or Albert), an
Anglo-Saxon Benedictine from the kingdom ot North-
umbria. He converted Ludmilla, the grandmother of
Wenceslaus, venerated through northern Germany and
Denmark as St. Wenzel. Ludmilla carefully educated
the young prince in her own faith. Meantime, his
brother Boleslaus had been brought up by his heathen
mother Drahomira in all the dark errors of paganism.
The characters of the two princes corresponded with the
tenets they respectively embraced. Wenceslaus was as
mild, merciful, and just, as Boleslaus was fierce, cruel,
perfidious. Bohemia was divided by the two parties,
the Christian and the heathen ; and at length Boleslaus
and his wicked mother conspired to assassinate Lud-
milla (a, d. 927, Sept. 16), as being the great pro-
tectress of the Christians, and the enemy of their native
gods. The hired murderers found her praying at the
foot of the cross in her private oratory, and strangled
her with her own veil. Thus she became the first
martyr-saint of Bohemia.

The turn of Wenceslaus came next : he had valiantly
met his enemies in the field, though not even the atro-
cities of Drahomira could induce him to forget his duty
to her as a son. According to the legend, two angels
from heaven visibly protected Wenceslaus in battle
(a. d. 938, Sept. 28) ; but they forsook him, apparently,
when, by the arts of his mother, he was entrapped to pay
her a visit, and slain by the hand of his brother at the
foot of the altar and in the act of prayer.

Wenceslaus lived at the time when the passion for
relics had spread over all Christendom. On a visit
which he paid to his friend Otho I., that warlike
emperor bestowed on him certain relics of St. Vitus
and St. Sigismond. Thus in the Bohemian pictures
we have St. Wenceslaus and St. Sigismond, all glorious


in their princely robes, their crowns and palms, and
shining armor ; St. Ludmilla, with her palm and her
veil ; St. Vitus, as a beautiful boy with a cdck on his
book ; St. George ; and St. Procopius, a holy Bohe-
mian prince who turned hermit in the eleventh century,
and is represented with a doe at his side and a crown
at his feet.

St. Wenceslaus is represented robed and armed as
Duke of Bohemia; carrying the shield and standard
with the black Imperial eagle (a privilege granted to
him by Otho I.), and his palm as martyr.

In the Imperial Gallery at Vienna is a very curious
altar-piece, with the Virgin and Child enthroned in the
central compartment : on one side St. Wenceslaus ; on
the other St. Palmatius, inscribed

" Quis opus hoc finxit ? Thomas de Mutina pinxit."

Another picture in which St. Wenceslaus, a colossal
figure, is standing with the same attributes, while an
angel brings him the crown of martyrdom. In the
background is a pedestal, on which is depicted a bas-
relief, exhibiting the murder of the saint by his wicked
brother. The painter, Angiolo Caroselli, was one of
the numerous artists in the employment of Rudolph II.

In the gallery of the Academy there is (or was) a
series of pictures representing the life and martyrdom
of Wenceslaus, by Carl Skreta, who, notwithstanding
his terrible name, was a very good painter, particularly
of portraits.

The martyrdom of St. Ludmilla I found represented
in a curious old fragment of a bas-relief, standing in the
Church of St. Laurence at Nuremberg. A fine marble
statue by a native Bohemian sculptor, Emanuel Max,
has recently been set up in the Church of St. Vitus at
Prague. •


St. Henry of Bavaria was one of those princes who
earned their canonization bv boundless submission to


the Church. He was bora in the year 972, was elected
emperor in 1002, and died at Rome in 1024. He
founded and endowed, in conjunction with his wife
Cunegunda, the magnificent cathedral and monastery
of Bamberg in Franconia, and many other convents
and religious edifices in Germany and Italy. His
brother the Duke of Bavaria, and other princes of the
Empire, reproached him for expending not only his
patrimony, but the public treasures in these founda-
tions ; they even made this an excuse for their rebellion
against him. But Henrv showed himself not less
valiant than he was devout. He defeated his adver-
saries in the field, and then earned his title of saint by
pardoning them all freely, and restoring to them their
possessions. He undertook an expedition against the
idolatrous nations of Poland and Sclavonia, partly for
their conversion and partly for their subjection. On
going forth to this war he solemnly placed his army
under the protection of the three holy martyrs, St.
Laurence, St. George, and St. Adrian, and, as already
related, girded on the sword of the last-named warlike
saint, which had been long preserved as a precious relic
in the church of Walbeck. The legend goes on to
assure us, that his saintly protectors were seen visibly
fighting on his side, and that through their divine aid
he defeated the infidels, and obliged them to receive
baptism. As a memorial of his victory arose the beau-
tiful church of Merseberg. He also led an army to the
very extremity of Italy, and drove the Saracens from
their conquests in Apulia. These were services ren-
dered not only to the Church, but to Christendom ;
and it seems clear that, though the piety of Henry was
deeply tinctured by the fanaticism and superstition of
the times in which he lived, he possessed some great
and some good qualities. He professed a particular
veneration for the Virgin, and it was his custom in his
warlike expeditions, whenever he entered a city for the
first time, to repair immediately to a church dedicated
to the Mother of the Saviour, and there to pay his de-


votions. On one occasion when visiting the abbey of
Verdun, he was seized with such a weariness of soul,
such a disgust for the pomps and cares of his position,
that he was about to renounce the world, and take the
habit of a monk. The prior, Richard of Verdun, told
him that the first vow required of him would be obedi-
ence. The emperor expressed his readiness to obey ;
thereupon the prior enjoined him to retain his kingly
office and discharge its duties. " The emperor," said
he, " came hither to learn obedience, and he practises
this lesson by ruling wisely."

Henry, on assuming the Imperial dignity, married
the beautiful and pious princess Cunegunda, daughter
of Siegfried, count of Luxembourg, who shares her
husband's celestial, as she shared his earthly, crown.
She is Saint Cunegunda, adored by her people while
living, and the subject of innumerable legends and bal-
lads since her death. After a union of several years,
during which they lived together in love and harmony,
but by mutual consent in the strictest continence, the
holy empress was suspected of infidelity to her husband ;
and Henry, though perfectly convinced of his wife's im-
maculate purity, was somewhat affected by the malicious
reports concerning her. Cunegunda herself would will-
ingly have submitted to these accusations as a trial
sent from Heaven to test her patience and humility;
but considering that Providence had placed her in a
position of life wherein an evil example would cause
much mischief and scandal, she appealed to the trial by
ordeal, and, having walked unhurt over the burning
ploughshares, she was acquitted. This story of the
Empress Cunegunda is as popular in German poetry
and German art, as the story of our Queen Emma, the
mother of the Confessor, was formerly in England.
Henry endeavored to make his wife amends for the
indignities to which she had been exposed, by treating
her with more respect and tenderness than ever, but
she obtained his permission to retire from the world,
and withdrew to the cloister. Henry died in 1024, aud


was interred in his Cathedral of Bamberg. Cunegunda,
on his death, assumed the Benedictine habit, and not
only set an example of piety and charity, but of in-
dustry, working continually with her hands when not
engaged in prayer ; for this most holy empress had
often on her lips the words of St. Paul, that those who
did not work had no right to eat (2 Thess. iii. 8).
She died in 1040, and was buried at Bamberg by the
side of her husband. The influence of the monks of
Bamberg, which became one of the greatest of the Bene-
dictine communities, procured the canonization of their
founder, Henry, by Eugenius III., in 1152, and that of
Cunegunda by Innocent HI. in 1200.

The single devotional figures of St. Henry exhibit
him in complete armor, wearing the imperial crown ;
in one hand, his sword, or the orb of sovereignty ; in
the other he usally holds the Cathedral of Bamberg.

The effigies of Cunegunda represent her as Empress,
wearing a long veil under her diadem ; and in her
hand she also bears the Cathedral of Bamberg as joint
founder, — or it may be the Church of St. Stephen at
Bamberg, of which she was sole founder. In a print
by Hans Burgmair, she is stepping over the red-hot
ploughshares, and holds a ploughshare in her hand.

Henry, having been a great protector of religion in
Italy as well as in Germany, is sometimes found in
Italian pictures, particularly at Florence, where he built
and endowed the Church of San Miniato, so famous in
Florentine story. The legend of " St. Laurence and
the Emperor Henry " occurs frequently in old Floren-
tine art. I found in the Pitti Palace a picture repre-
senting St. Henry and St. Cunegunda standing with a
lily between them, — emblem of their chastity.

The most beautiful monument to the sanctity and
glory of this imperial pair is their sepulchre or shrine
in the Cathedral of Bamberg. They lie together,
under a rich Gothic canopy, arrayed in their imperial
robes ; the heads and hands are admirably sculptured ;


but finer still are the bas-reliefs which decorate the
pedestal or sarcophagus on which they recline. There
are four subjects: 1. Cunegunda undergoes the fiery
ordeal, a beautiful composition of eight figures. 2.
Cunegunda pays, out of her dower, the architects and
masons who are building the Church of St. Stephen at
Bamberg. 3. Henry, in his last illness, takes leave of
his wife. 4. Henry receives the last offices from the
Bishop of Bamberg. 5. The legend of St. Laurence,
which I have already related at length. These sculp-
tures, contemporary with the bronzes of Peter Vischer
at Nuremberg (between 1499 and 1513), were executed,
under the auspices of a Bishop of Bamberg, by Hans
Thielmann of Wurzburg. In delicacy of workmanship
and dramatic feeling, they equal some of the finest
contemporary works of Italy.

In the court-yard of the castle at Nuremberg there
stood, and I hope still stands, a lime-tree, said to have
been planted by Cunegunda, and, for her sake, relig-
iously guarded by the people. It was, when I saw it,
almost in the last stage of decay, though still preserving
its vitality. This memorial, though it concerns nature,
not art, deserves to be mentioned.

Of St. Stephen, king of Hungary, there is not
much to be said with reference to art. He was the first
Christian king of that country, and succeeded his
father, Duke Geysa, about the year 998. Geysa and
his wife received baptism late in life from the hand of
St. Adelbert, the Northumbrian missionary ; and, as a
sign of their new faith, gave the name of the Christian
Proto-martyr to their eldest son. Stephen found his
country barbarous and heathen ; and he left it com-
paratively civilized and Christianized. Having subdued
the pagan nations around, and incorporated them with
his own people, he sent ambassadors to Rome with rich
offerings to request the papal benediction and the title
of king. The pope, Sylvester II., sent him in return
a royal diadem, and a cross to be borne before his


array. This crown was preserved at Presburg, and is
the same which was placed on the fair head of Maria,
Theresa on the memorable day of her coronation.
What may have become of it since 1848 I do not

St. Stephen married Gisela, the sister of St. Henry,
a princess " full of most blessed conditions." Unhap-
pily, all their children died before their parents. The
eldest son, a youth of singular beauty of person and
great promise, is styled St. Emeric by the Hungarians,
and associated with his father as an object of reverential

St. Stephen is considered as the apostle and legislator
of Hungary. In common with those saints who have
triumphed over paganism, he bears the standard with
the cross ; and is usually represented with this attribute,
dressed in complete armor, wearing the kingly crown,
and holding the sacred sword, which was also preserved
among the regalia of Hungary. He is introduced into
groups of the Blessed where the object has been to com-
pliment those sovereigns of Spain or Austria who were
connected with Hungary ; but I do not recollect ever
meeting with him in Italian art.

A picture in the Vienna Gallery, and which appears
to have been painted for Maria Theresa, represents St.
Stephen receiving the crown sent to him by Pope Syl-
vester in 1003.

St. Leopold, margrave of Austria, was born in
1080. In 1106 he married Agnes, the beautiful and
youthful widow of Frederic, duke of Suabia ; by her,
he was the father of eighteen children, eleven of whom
survived him ; and, after a long and most prosperous
reign, he died in 1136.

The virtues of this prince were certainly conspicuous
in the agef n which he lived. The history of his life.


and actions shows that he had a deep religious feeling
of his responsibility as a governor of men, a just mind,
a merciful and kindly disposition ; but these virtues,
and many more, would not, in all probability, have
procured him the honors of a saint, had he not founded
during his lifetime the magnificent monastery of Klos-
ter-Xeuburg, on the banks of the Danube. It is related
that, on a certain day, soon after their marriage, Leo-
pold and Agnes stood in the balcony of their palace on
the Leopoldsberg (a site well known to those who have
resided in Vienna), and they looked round them over
the valley of the Danube, from the borders of Bohemia
on one side, to the confines of Hungary on the other,
with the city of Vienna lying close at their feet. And,
as they stood there, hand in hand, they vowed to com-
memorate their love, and their gratitude to Heaven who
had given them to each other, by building and endowing
an edifice for the service of God. Just then the breeze
caught and lifted the bridal veil of Agnes, and it went
floating away upon the air till lost to view. About
eight yars afterwards, as Leopold was hunting in the
neighboring forest, he saw at a distance a white and
glittering object suspended from a tree ; and, on spur-
ring his horse towards it, he recognized the veil of
Agnes, and recollected their joint vow. He imme-
diately ordered the wilderness to be cleared, and on
that spot arose the Kloster-Neuburg ; around it, a once
flourishing town, and some of the richest and most pro-
ductive vineyards in Austria. This convent, when I
visited it some years ago, was a seminary : the old
Gothic church and cloisters had been partly rebuilt in
the worst ages of art, in the worst possible taste ; but
the library was still fine and extensive, and the veil of
Agnes and the shrine of St. Leopold were then preserved
among the treasures of the place.

It was at the request of the monks of Kloster-Xeuburg
that Leopold was canonized by Pope Innocent VIII.,
in 1485. He has since been reverenced as one of the
patron saints of Austria, and it is in this cliM-acter that


he is represented in German art : I have never met
with him in an Italian picture. His canonization was
celebrated with great pomp, and he became popular as
a saint all over Germany just before the Reformation,
and at the time when Mabuse, Lucas Cranach, Albert
Diirer, L. van Leyden, and other early German artists,
flourished. In the Vienna Gallery are two devotional
figures of St. Leopold. One of these, attributed to
Holbein, represents him standing, as prince and saint,
in complete armor, with a glory round his head, and
a coral rosary in his hand. The other, by Lucas
Cranach, also represents him in complete armor, with
spear and shield, and in companionship with St. Jerome,
who in the old pictures is often the representative of a
life of religious seclusion, — of " the cloister," in its
general sense. They are placed together as the patrons
of the Kloster-Neuburg, whence, I presume, this pictui'e
originally came.

There is a fine woodcut by Albert Diirer, executed
in compliment to his patron the Emperor Maximilian,
and representing the eight guardian saints of Austria.
Among them stands St. Leopold, wearing his ducal
crown (with which crown, brought from Kloster-Neu-
burg for the purpose, I saw the ex-Emperor Ferdinand
crowned Archduke of Austria in 1835). The others
are, — St. Quirinus, as bishop ; St. Maximilian, as
bishop and martyr ; St. Florian the martyr, in com-
plete armor ; St. Severinus, an obscure saint, con-
sidered as the first apostle of Austria (whose relics are
honored at San Severino in Naples), in the Benedictine
habit; St. Coloman, as pilgrim (one of the earliest
missionaries ) ; St. Poppo, as abbot of Stavelo (of
whom it is recorded that he persuaded the Emperor St.
Henry to abolish the barbarous combats between men
and beasts ) ; and St. Otho, as bishop of Bamberg.

Another rare and curious woodcut by Albert Diirer
represents the Emperor Maximilian on his knees before
the First Person of the Trinity, who stands on a raised
throne, arrayed as a high-priest and holding the orb of



sovereignty. Beside Maximilian stands the Virgin
with the infant Christ; she is saying, "Lord, save the
king, and hear us when we cdll upon thee I " St. Andrew,
leaning on his jewelled cross ; St. Barbara; St. George;
St. Leopold ; St. Sebastian, and St. Maximilian, appear
to be assisting the emperor in his devotions.

St. Ferdinand of Castile* was the son of Al-
phoDso, king of Leon, and Berengaria of Castile. After
a union of several years, and the birth of four children,
Alphonso and Berengaria were separated by a decree
of the pope, because, being within the prohibited de-
grees of consanguinity, they had married without a
dispensation. Their children were, however, declared
legitimate. Berengaria returned to her father, the king
of Castile, and lived retired in his court ; but she exer-
cised during her whole life an extraordinary influence
over the mind of her eldest son, Ferdinand, and his
obedience to her even to the hour of his death was that
of a docile child. When Berengaria succeeded to the
throne of Castile she gave up her rights to her son, and
shortly afterwards on the death of his father he suc-
ceeded to the throne of Leon, thus uniting forever the
two kingdoms ; and from this time it may be said
that Berengaria and her son reigned together, such
complete union existed between them. He married
Joan, Countess of Ponthieu ; and she vied with her hus-
band in duty and love to the queen-mother. In read-
ing the chronicles of the royal houses of Spain, the
murders, treasons, tragedies, which meet us in every
page, it is refreshing to come upon this record of do-
mestic confidence, fidelity, and affection, lasting through
a long series of years : we feel there must have been
admirable qualities, shall I say saintly qualities, on
which this peace and trust and tenderness were founded.
But history does not dwell upon them : and St. Ferdi-

* El Santo Rey, Don Fernando III. A. D. 1152, May 30.


nand owed his canonization less to his virtues than to
his implacable enmity against the Moors. Mr. Ford,*
who is not given to praising saints, styles him " the
best of kings, and bravest of warriors." His piety, if
tinctured with the ferocious fanaticism of the times, was
conscientious, and the nature of Ferdinand was neither
ambitious nor cruel. He had made a solemn vow never
to draw his sword in Christian conflict, and in his wars
against the infidels he was constantly victorious. More-
over, it is related in the Spanish chronicles, that, at the
great battle of Xeres, Santiago himself appeared visibly
at the head of his troops, combating for him, and, while
thousands of the Moors were left dead on the field, on
the side of the Christians there fell but one knight, who
had refused before the battle to pardon an injury.

But neither his victories, nor his magnificent religious
foundations, leave so pleasing an impression of the
character of Ferdinand as one speech recorded of him.
When he was urged to replenish his exhausted coffers
and recruit his army by laying a new tax on his people,
he rejected the counsel with indignation. " God," said
he, "in whose cause I fight, will supply my need. I
fear more the curse of one poor old woman than a
whole army of Moors ! "

After driving the infidels from Toledo, Cordova, and
Seville, he was meditating an expedition into Africa,
when he was seized with sickness, and died as a Chris-
tian penitent, a cord round his neck and the crucifix in
his hand. He was buried in the Cathedral of Seville,
and was succeeded by his son, Alphonso the Wise, in
1152. His only daughter, Eleonora of Castile, who
inherited the piety and courage of her sainted father,
married our Edward I. She it was who sucked the
poison from her husband's wound.

It was not till 1668 that Ferdinand was canonized
by Clement IX. at the request of Philip IV., and " the

Online LibraryMrs. (Anna) JamesonLegends of the monastic orders, as represented in the fine arts. Forming the second series of Sacred and legendary art → online text (page 19 of 41)