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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greatest religious festival ever held at Seville " took

* Handbook of Spain.


place in 1671 on the arrival of the pope's hull. Of
course the pictures of him as saint are confined to Spain,
or at least to Spanish art, and can date only from this
late period. But the Spanish school of Seville was
then in all its glory, and as Philip IV. was a munifi-
cent patron of art, the painters hastened to gratify him
by multiplying- effigies of his sainted ancestor.

St. Ferdinand, as Mr. Stirling tells us in his beauti-
ful book,* founded the Cathedral of Burgos, "which
points to heaven with spires more rich and delicate than
any that crown the cities of the imperial Rhine. He
also began to rebuild the Cathedral of Toledo, where
during four hundred years artists swarmed and labored
like bees ; and splendid prelates lavished their princely
revenues to make fair and glorious the temple of God
intrusted to their care." There is preserved in the
Convent of San Clemente, at Seville, a portrait of St.
Ferdinand, " a work of venerable aspect, of a dark
dingy color, and ornamented with gilding " ; reckoned
authentic and contemporary. When Ferdinand VII.
in 1823 wished to borrow this portrait for the purpose
of having it copied, the nuns of San Clemente would
not allow it to leave their custody.

Devotional pictures of San Fernando represent him
in complete armor, over which is thrown a regal man-
tle : he wears the kingly crown, surmounted by the
celestial glory. He has sometimes a drawn sword in
his hand, sometimes it is the orb of sovereignty. In
the arms of the city of Seville he is throned as patron
saint, with the two famous bishops St. Isidore and St.
Lauriano on either side.

There are five pictures of San Fernando by Murillo ;
one of them, a fine head, is supposed to be a copy of
the portrait in San Clemente.

In the Spanish gallery of the Louvre are two figures
of St. Ferdinand, attributed to Zurbaran, but probably
by some later painter. I recollect a fine San Fernando
among the Spanish pictures in the possession of Lord

* " Anuals of the Artists of Spain."


Clarendon. Another picture in my list I must men-
tion, from its characteristic Spanish feeling ; " St. Ferdi-
nand bringing a fagot to burn a heretic," by Valdes.

Of St. Casimir of Poland there is nothing to be re-
marked except his enthusiastic piety and his early death.
He was the third son of Casimir IV. of Poland, and
Elizabeth of Austria ; and, from his childhood, a gentle-
spirited and studious boy, whom no influence, or teach-
ing, or example could rouse to active pursuits, or waken
to ambition, or excite to pleasures : and thus he grew
up in his father's half-barbarous court, and among his
warlike brothers, a being quite of a different order ; a
poet, too, in his way, composing himself the hymns he
sung or recited in honor of the Virgin and the saints.
After refusing the crown of Hungary, he became more
and more retired and austere in his habits. At length
he fell into a decline, and died in 1483. He was can-
onized by Leo X., at the request of his brother Sigis-
mond the Great ; and became patron saint of Poland.
He is represented as a youth in regal attire ; a lily in
his hand, a crown and sceptre at his feet. Or, he holds
in his hand his hymn to the Virgin, beginning,

" Omni Die
Die Mariae
Mea laudes anima ! "

while the lily and the crown lie on a table beside him ;
as in an elegant little picture by Carlo Dolce. When
Casimir V. abdicated the crown of Poland, and became
abbot of the Benedictine convent of St. Germain-des-
Pres at Paris, he introduced the worship of his patron
saint, and the young St. Casimir is often found in
French prints.

Other Royal Saints who are particularly connected
with the Mendicant Orders will be found in their proper


[•HE Augustine Order has been so widely

IFgBTj scattered, its origin is so uncertain, it has
been broken up into so many denomina-
tions, and the primitive rule so variously
modified, that it is difficult to consider the whole com-
munity as one body of men, animated by one spirit,
and impressed with a certain definite character, as is
the case with the Benedictines, and Franciscans, and
the Dominicans.

There is no occasion to enter into the much-disputed
question of the origin of this famous Order. In tracing
its history in connection with art, it is sufficient to keep
in mind the only two facts which, on looking over the
best ecclesiastical authorities, stand out clear and intel-
ligible before us.

I. The Augustines claim as their founder and patri-
arch the great Doctor and Father of the Church, St.
Augustine ; and in every language they bear his name :
in Italian, Agostini, Padri Agostiniani ; in German,
August iner.

It is related in his Life, that he assembled together
a number of persons religiously and charitably disposed,
who solemnly renounced the cares and vanities of this
world, threw their possessions into a common stock,
and dedicated themselves to the service of (iod and the
ministry of the poor. Similar communities of women


were likewise formed under his auspices ; and such,
they aver, was the origin of the " rule of St. Augus-

II. At the same time, it is not clear that this great
Father and Teacher of the Church contemplated the
institution of a religious Order such as was founded by
St. Basil in the East and afterwards by St. Benedict in
the West ; or that any such Order existed until the
middle of the ninth century. About that period, all
the various denominations of the Christian clergy who
had not entered the ranks of monachism — priests, can-
ons, clerks, &c. — were incorporated, by the decrees of
Pope Leo III. and the Emperor Lothaire, into one
great community, and received as their rule of disci-
pline that which was promulgated by St. Augustine.
Thenceforward, we have the regular and secular canons
( Canoniti regolari e secolari) of Augustine ; and all
those personages who had been dedicated to a holy life,
or to the duties of the priesthood, in the first centuries
after the apostolic ages, were retrospectively included
in the Augustine community.

In the time of Innocent IV., all the hermits, soli-
taries, and small separate confraternities, who lived
under no recognized discipline, were registered and in-
corporated by a decree of the Church, and reduced
under one rule, called the rule of St. Augustine, with
some more strict clauses introduced, fitting the new
ideas of a conventual life. There was some difficulty
in compelling these outlying brethren to accept a uni-
form rule and habit, and bind themselves by monastic
vows. Innocent IV. died before he had completed his
reform, but Alexander IV. carried out his purpose;
not, however, without calling a miracle to his assist-
ance, for just at the critical moment, St. Augustine
himself deigned to appear : he was dressed in a long
black gown, tattered and torn, in sign of poverty and
humilitv ; round his waist he wore a leathern strap and
buckle, and carried in his hand a scourge ; and he
gave the pope to understand, that the contumacious



hermits were to take forthwith the Augustine habit, and
submit themselves to the monastic rule, under pain of
the scourge, freely and not metaphorically applied. At
length these scattered members were brought into sub-
mission, and the whole united into one great religious
body, under the name of Eremiti or Eremitani Agostini,
hermits or friars of St. Augustine ; in English, Austin-
Friars, (a. d. 1284.) This was about forty years
after the introduction of the Franciscans and Domin-

The Augustines, as I have observed, branch out into
a great variety of denominations ; and the rule is con-
sidered as the parent rule of all the monastic orders and
religious congregations not included in the Benedictine
institution, and to number among its members all the
distinguished characters and recluses who lived from
the fourth to the sixth century.

The first great saint of the Order who figures as a
subject of art is of course St. Augustine himself, whose
effigy is generally conspicuous in the houses and con-
ventual churches bearing his name : not chiefly as one
of the four Latin Fathers (in this character he is to be
found in most religious edifices), but more especially as
patriarch and founder of the Augustine Order : not al-
ways in the rich episcopal cope and mitre, but with the
black frock, leathern girdle, and shaven crown of an
Augustine friar : not seated with the other great Fathers
in colloquy sublime on the mysteries and doctrines of
the Church, but dispensing alms, or washing the feet of
our Saviour under the guise of a pilgrim ; or giving the
written rule to the friars of his Order ; or to the various
religious communities, who, as Lanzi expresses it, "fight
under his banner, — militano sotto la sua bandiera." All
these subjects I have already discussed at length,* with
reference to the life and character of St. Augustine as a
Father of the Church ; and, therefore, I shall say no
more of them here.

* Sacred and Legendary Art.


St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, is also a
favorite subject in the pictures painted for this Order.
She is usually considered as the first Augustine nun.
In the Santo-Spirito at Florence, which belongs to the
Eremiti-Agost'iniam, we find St. Monica seated on a
throne, surrounded by twelve women of the Capponi
family, and in another chapel of the same church she
and her son stand together.

St. Antony and St. Paul, the primitive hermits, with
all the curious legends relating to them, are generally
to he found in the edifices of the Augustine Friars, either
as examples of hermit life, or as belonging to the com-
munity. Of these ancient worthies I have already
spoken at length in a former volume.*

The Augustine writers also number among the early
saints of their Order St. Patrick and St. Bridget of Ire-
land. It is true that nearly every vestige of these two
memorable personages has been destroyed or mutilated ;
but not the less do they live in the hearts of the people,
familiar names in their household talk, mixed up with
many wild, strange, incongruous legends, but still repre-
senting to them the traditions of their ancient civiliza-
tion ; the memories of better times, before their religion
was proscribed and their country confiscated.

St. Patrick (a. d. 464), who styles himself " a Briton
and a Koman," was carried away captive into Ireland
when a youth of sixteen, and was set to tend the herds
of his master. Being born of Christian parents, he
turned his misfortune to good account, making his cap-
tivity a school of patience and humility. The benighted
condition of the people among whom he dwelt filled him
with compassion ; and when afterwards he made his
escape and was restored to his parents and his home, he
was haunted by visions, in which he beheld the yet un-
born children of these Irish pagans stretching forth their
little hands and crying to him for salvation. So he re-

* Sacred and Legendary Art.



turned to Ireland, having first received his mission from
Pope Celestine, and preached the Word of God ; suffer-
ing with patience all indignities, affronting all dangers
and fatigues with invincible courage, converting every-
where thousands by his preaching and example, and
gaining over many disciples who assisted him most
zealously in the task of instructing and converting these
barbarians. He himself preached the kingdom of Christ
before the assembled kings and chiefs at Tara ; and
though Niell, the chief monarch, refused to listen to
him, he soon afterwards baptized the kings of Dublin
and Munster ; and the seven sons of the king of Con-
naught. After forty years of unremitting labor in teach-
ing and preaching, he left Ireland not only Christianized,
but full of religious schools and foundations, which be-
came famous in Western Europe and sent forth crowds
of learned men and missionaries ; and having thus
founded the Church of Ireland, and placed its chief
seat at Armagh, he died and was buried at Down, in
the province of Ulster.

The story of St. Patrick exorcising the venomous
reptiles from his adopted country has the same origin
as the dragon legends of the East, and the same signifi-
cation. It is merely one form of the familiar allegory
figuring the conquest of good over evil, or the triumph
of Christianity over Paganism.

It is related that St. Patrick consecrated many wo-
men to the service of God, finding them everywhere
even more ready to receive the truth than the men ; and
among these, was St. Bridget or Brigida. The mother
of this famous saint was a beautiful captive, whom her
father, a powerful chieftain, had taken in war. The
legitimate wife of the chief became jealous of her slave,
and cast her out of the house like another Hagar. So
she brought forth her child in sorrow and shame ; but
two holy men, disciples of St. Patrick, took pity on her,
baptized her and her daughter, — and Bridget grew up
in wisdom and beauty, and became so famous in the
land, that her father took her home, and wished to have


married her to a neighboring chief, but Bridget would
not hear of marriage. She devoted herself to the ser-
vice of God, the ministry of the poor, and the instruc-
tion of the people, particularly those of her own sex ;
and retired to a solitary place, where was a grove of
oaks, which had once been dedicated to the false gods.
There she taught and preached, healing the sick, and
restoring sight to the blind ; and such was the fame of
her sanctity and her miraculous power, that vast crowds
congregated to that place, and built themselves huts
and cells that they might dwell in her vicinity ; and,
particularly, many women joined themselves to her,
partaking of her labors, and imitating her example :
aad this was the first community of religious women in
Ireland. Kildare, " the cell or place of the oak," be-
came afterwards one of the most celebrated convents
and most flourishing cities in Ireland. Here was pre-
served, unextinguished, for many centuries, the sacred
lamp which burned before her shrine.

The Church of St. Patrick and St. Bridget, at Down,
was destroyed by Sir Leonard Grey in the reign of
Henry VIII. Other memorials of these patrons per-
ished in the desolating wars of Elizabeth ; and whatever
religious relics, dear and venerable to the hearts of the
Irish, may have survived the first period of the Refor-
mation were utterly swept away by the savage Puritans
under Cromwell. In London the name of St. Bridget
survives in the beautiful Church of St. Bride in Fleet
Street, and the Palace (now the Prison) of Bridewell.

In any pictured memorial of the former civilization
and spiritual glories of Ireland, if such should ever be
called for, St. Patrick and St. Bridget ought to find a
place ; for they represent not merely the Church of the
Roman Catholics, but the first planting of the Church
of Christ in a land till then filled with the darkest idola-
try ; and the two should always stand together.

St. Patrick may be represented in two ways ; either
as missionary and apostle, or as the first bishop and
primate of the Church of Ireland.


As the Apostle of Ireland he ought to wear a gown
with a hood, and a leathern girdle ; in one hand a start'
and wallet, in the other the Gospel of Christ : he should
not be represented old, because, though dates are very
uncertain, it is most probable that he was still a young
man when he first came to Ireland. At his feet or un-
der his feet should be a serpent. Tbe standard with
the cross, the proper attribute of the missionary saints
who overcome idolatry, would also belong to him.

As Bishop he should wear the usual episcopal insig-
nia, the mitre, the cope, the crosier ; the Gospel in his
hand, and at his side a neophyte looking up to him with

St. Bridget may also be represented in two different
characters. She may wear the ample robe and long
white veil always given to the female Christian con-
verts ; in one hand the cross, in the other the lamp, —
typical at once of heavenly light or wisdom (as in the
hand of St. Lucia), and also her proper attribute as

"The bright lamp that shone in Kildare's holy fane,
And burned through long ages of darkness and storm," —

and which her female disciples watched with as much
devotion as the vestal virgins of old the sacred fire.
An oak-tree or a grove of oaks should be placed in the

She may also be represented as first Abbess of Kil-
dare ; and as this abbey became afterwards a famous
Franciscan community, St. Bridget might with pro-
priety be represented as the Irish St. Clara, in the long
gray habit and black hood, bearing the pastoral staff.
This would be much less appropriate as well as less
picturesque than the former representation, but I believe
the old effigies would thus exhibit her.

Next to the patriarch St. Augustine, the great saint
of the Order is St. Nicholas of Tolentino.


He was bom about the year 1239, in the little town
of St. Angelo, near Fermo. His parents having ob-
tained a son through the intercession of St. Nicholas,
bestowed on him the name of the beneficent bishop,
and dedicated him to the service of God. He assumed
the habit of an Augustine friar in very early youth ; and
was distinguished by his fervent devotion and extraor-
dinary austerities, so that it was said of him that " he
did not live, but languished through life." He was also
an eloquent preacher, and unwearied in his ministry.
As for his miracles, his visions, and his revelations,
they are not to be enumerated. He died in 1309, and
was canonized by Pope Eugenius IV. in 1446.

According to the legend, the future eminence and
sanctity of this saint were foretold by a star of wonder-
ful splendor which shot through the heavens from Sant'
Angelo, where he was born, and stood over the city of
Tolentino, where he afterwards fixed his residence.
For this reason the devotional effigies of St. Nicholas
of Tolentino represent him in the black habit of his
Order, with a star on his breast ; and sometimes he
carries the Gospel as preacher of the Word, and a cru-
cifix wreathed with a lily, — the type of his penances
and his purity of life. He is generally young, of a dark
complexion, and an ardent meagre physiognomy.

There is a fine statue of this saint by Sansovino.
(Fl. Santo-Spirito.)

" St. Nicholas of Tolentino crowned by the Virgin
and St. Augustine," is a picture attributed to Raphael.

A charming little picture by Mazzolino da Ferrara
(Nat. Gal.), exhibiting all his characteristics, represents
St. Nicholas of Tolentino kneeling before the Virgin
and Child. The head of the saint is a masterpiece of
finish and expression, but has not the wasted nor the
youthful features generally given to him.

It is related of this St. Nicholas that he never tasted
animal food. In his last illness, when weak and wasted
from inanition, his brethren brought him a dish of doves


to restore his strength. The saint reproved them, and
painfully raising himself on his couch, stretched his
hand over the doves, whereupon they rose from the dish
and flew away. This legend is the subject of a small
but very pretty picture by Garofalo. (Leuchtenberg

Another picture by the same painter represents St.
Nicholas restoring to life a child laid at his feet by its
disconsolate mother.

"In the year 1602, the city of Cordova was visited
by the plague ; and the Governor, Don Diego de Var-
gas, caused the image of St. Nicholas of Tolentino (it
was the day of his festival) to be carried through the
streets in solemn procession to the Lazaretto. Father
G de Uavas met the procession, bearing a large cruci-
fix ; thereupon the saint stretched forth his arms, and
the figure of Christ stooping from the cross embraced
St. Nicholas ; and from that hour the pestilence was
stayed." This miraculous incident is the subject of a
picture by Castiglione, from which there is a print in
the British Museum.

A much more interesting saint is the good Arch-
bishop of Valencia, St. Thomas de Villanueva,
called the Almoner, glorious in the pictures of Murillo
and Ribalta ; but he lived in the decline of Italian art,
and I do not know one good Italian picture of him.

Thomas of Villanueva, the son of Alphonso Garcia
and Lucia Martinez of Villanueva, was born in the
year 1488. The family was one of the most ancient in
Valencia, but his parents, who were of moderate for-
tune, were remarkable only for their exceeding charity,
and for lending money without interest, or furnishing
seed for their fields, to the poor people around them.
Their son inherited their virtues. When he was a
child only seven years old, he used to give away his
food to the poor children, and take off his clothes in
the street, to throw them over those who were in rags.


The vocation for the ecclesiastical life was too strongly-
exhibited to be gainsaid by his parents. After study-
ing for fourteen years at Alcala and at Salamanca, he
entered the Augustine Order at the age of thirty : and
I find it remarked in his Life, that the day and hour
on which he pronounced his vows as an Augustine
Friar were the same on which Luther publicly recanted
and renounced the habit of the Order.

After two years' preparation, by retirement from the
world, penance and prayer, Thomas de Villanueva be-
came a distinguished preacher, and soon afterwards
Prior of the Augustines of Salamanca. He was re-
garded with especial veneration by the emperor Charles
V., who frequently consulted him on the ecclesiastical
affairs of his empire. It is recorded, that when Charles
had refused to pardon certain state criminals, though
requested to do so by some of his chief counsellors, the
grand constable, the Archbishop of Toledo, and even
his son Don Philip, he yielded at once to the prayer of
St. Thomas, declaring that he looked upon his request
in the light of a Divine command.

In the year 1544, Charles showed his respect for him
by nominating him Archbishop of Valencia. He ac-
cepted the dignity with the greatest reluctance : he
arrived in Valencia in an old black cassock, and a hat
which he had worn for twenty-six years ; and as he
had never in his life kept anything for himself, beyond
what was necessary for his daily wants, he was so poor,
that the canons of his cathedral thought proper to pre-
sent him with four thousand crowns for his outfit : he
thanked them gratefully, and immediately ordered the
sura to be carried to the hospital for the sick and poor,
and from this time forth we find his life one series of
beneficent actions. He began by devoting two thirds
of the revenues of his diocese to purposes of charity.
He divided those who had a claim on him into six
classes : — first, the bashful poor, who had seen better
days, and who were ashamed to beg ; secondly, the
poor girls whose indigence and misery exposed them


to danger and temptation ; in the third class were the
poor debtors ; in the fourth the poor orphans and
foundlings ; in the fifth, the sick, the lame, and the in-
firm ; lastly, for the poor strangers and travellers who
arrived in the city, or passed through it, without know-
ing where to lay their heads, he had a great kitchen
open at all hours of the day and night, where every one
avIio came was supplied with food, a night's rest, and a
small gratuity to assist him on his journey.

In the midst of these charities he did not forget the
spiritual wants of his people ; and, to crown his de-
servings, he was a munificent patron of art.

" Valencia," says Mr. Stirling, " was equally prolific
of saints, artists, and men of letters. Its fine school of
painting first grew into notice under the enlightened
care of the good archbishop. He encouraged art, not
to swell his archiepiscopal state, but to embellish his
cathedral, and to instruct and improve his flock."
Among the painters who flourished under his auspices,
was Vicente de Juanes (or Juan de Juanes), the head
and founder of the Valencian school ; — " his style,
like his character, was grave and austere : if Raphael

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 20 of 41)