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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dream, in which the Virgin descended from heaven,
and, putting a ring upon his finger, declared him her
espoused. Hence he received from the brotherhood the
name of Joseph. He died in 1236.

The vision of St. Herman-Joseph has been repre-
sented by Vandyck. (Vienna Gal.) He kneels, wear-
ing the white cloak over the black tunic, and is presented
by an angel to the Virgin, who touches his hand. The


pretty legend of the child offering the apple I do not
remember to have seen.

The Servi, or Serviti.

Every one who has been at Florence must remem-
ber the church of the " Annunziata " ; every one who '
remembers that glorious church, who has lingered in
the cloisters and the Cortile, where Andrea del Sarto
put forth all his power, — where the Madonna del Sacco
and the Birth of the Virgin attest what he could do and
be as a painter, — will feel interested in the Order of
the Servi. Among the extraordinary outbreaks of
religious enthusiasm in the thirteenth century, this was
in its origin one of the most singular.

Seven Florentines, rich, noble, and in the prime of
life, whom a similarity of taste and feeling had drawn
together, used to meet every day in a chapel dedicated
to the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin (then outside
the walls of Florence), there to sing the Ave or evening
service in honor of the Madonna, for whom they had
an especial love and veneration. They became known
and remarked in their neighborhood for these acts of
piety, so that the women and children used to point at
them as they passed through the streets, and exclaim,
" Guardate i Servi di Maria!" (Behold the servants
of the Virgin !) Hence the title afterwards assumed
by the Order.

The passionate devotion of these seven enthusiasts
was increased by their mutual sympathy and emulation,
till at length they resolved to forsake the world alto-
gether, and, distributing their money to the poor, after
selling their possessions, they retired to Monte Senario,
a solitary mountain about six miles from Florence.
Here they built for themselves little huts, of stones and
boughs, and devoted themselves to the perpetual service
of the Virgin. At first they wore a plain white tunic,
in honor of the immaculate purity of their protectress :


it was then the favorite religious garb ; but one of the
brotherhood was honored with a vision in which the
Holy Virgin herself commanded them to change their
white tunic for a black one, " in memory of her ma-
ternal sorrow, and the death of her Divine Son " : the
habit was thenceforward black.

These seven Santi Fondatori dei Servi were Buon-
figlioli Monaldi, Giovanni Manetti, Benedetto Antellesi,
Gherardo Sostegni, Amadio, Ricovero Lippi, and Ales-
sio Falconieri. They were all allied to the noblest
families of Florence, and, as their Order grew in fame
and sanctity, their native city became proud of them.
I remember in the private chapel of the Casa Buona-
rotti (still the residence of the representative of Michael
Angelo) a series of Lunettes, in which all the renowned
Florentine saints are seen as walking in procession, led
by John the Baptist and Santa Reparata, the patron
saints of the city. The Padri Serviti, in their black
habits, form part of this religious company. At their
head walks St. Philip Benozzi, the chief saint of the
Order, who has been called the founder, but it existed
fifteen years before he joined it in 1247.

Filippo Benozzi began life as a physician. In gen-
eral, I think, the study of medicine and surgery does not
prepare the mind for intense devotional aspirations ; yet
I have heard of young men studying for the medical
profession, who, after going through a probation in the
hospitals, unable to bear the perpetual sight of bodily
suffering, and yet subdued at once and elevated by
such spectacles, have turned to the Church, and become
" healers of the sick " in another sense.

Such a one was Filippo Benozzi. After studying at
Paris and at Padua, then, and down to recent times, the
best schools of medicine in Europe, he returned to Flor-
ence, with the title of Doctor, and prepared to practise
his art. He had a tender and a thoughtful character ;
the sight of physical evil oppressed him, — he became
dissatisfied with himself and the world. One day, as
he attended mass in the Chapel of the Annunziata, he


was startled by the words in the Epistle of the day,
"Draw near, and join thyself to the chariot." (Acts
viii. 29.) And going home full of meditation, he threw
himself on his bed. In his dreams, he beheld the Vir-
gin seated in a chariot ; she called to him to draw near,
and to join her servants. He obeyed the vision and re-
tired to Monte Senario, where such was his modesty
and humility, that the brethren did not for a long time
discover his talents ; and great was their astonishment
Avhen they found they had among them a wise and
learned Doctor of the University of Padua ! He soon
became distinguished as a preacher, and yet more as a
reconciler of differences, having set himself to allay the
deadly hereditary factions which, at that time, distracted
all the cities of Tuscany. He prevailed o^ the pope,
Alexander IV., to confirm the Rule of the Order,
preached through the chief provinces of Italy, and at
Avignon, Toulouse, Lyons, Paris, gaining everywhere
converts to his peculiar adoration for the Virgin, and
at length died General of his Order, in 1285.

His memory has from that time been held in great
veneration by his own communitv : but it was not till
1516 that Leo X. (himself a Florentine) allowed his
festival to be celebrated as a Beato. This was a great
privilege, which the Serviti had long been desirous to
obtain, and it led to the formal canonization of their
saint in 1671. It was on the occasion of his Beatifica-
tion under Leo X., or soon after, that Andrea del Sarto
was called to' decorate the cloisters of the Annunziata
(Florence). Vasari gives a most amusing account of
the contrivances of the sacristan of the convent (a cer-
tain Fra Mariano) to get the work done as well and as
cheaply as possible. He stimulated the vanity of rival
artists ; he pointed out the advantage of having their
works exhibited in a locality to which such numbers of
the devout daily resorted ; he would not hold out the
hope of large pay, but he promised abundance of pray-
ers ; and he dwelt on the favor which their performan-
ces would no doubt obtain from the Blessed Virgin


herself, to whose especial honor, and that of her newly-
exalted votary, they were to be consecrated. He ob-
tained not all, but in great part, what he desired.
Andrea painted on one side of the Cortile two scenes
from the life of the Madonna, — the birth of the Virgin,
and the adoration of the Magi ; and on the other side
the life of San Filippo Benozzi. Of the first I will not
say anything at present ; every figure in those sublime
groups is familiar to the student and the lover of art.
Baldovinetti painted on the same side the birth of our
Saviour ; and Franciabigio his chef-d'oeuvre, the Mar-
riage of the Virgin. Of the six frescos from the life of
San Filippo, Cosimo Boselli painted the first, where he
takes the habit of the Serviti. The five others are by
Andrea. 2. . S. Filippo, on his way to the court of the
pope at Viterbo, gives his only shirt to a poor leper.
3. Some gamblers and profligate young men mocked
at the devotion of the saint, and pursued him with gibes
and insults as he ascended, with three of his brother-
hood, the Monte Senario. A storm came on ; the
brethren drew their cowls over their heads, and quietly
pursued their way ; the scoffers ran for shelter to a tree,
and were killed by the lightning. This is one of the
best of the series, admirable for the fine landscape, and
dramatic felicity with which the story is told. 4. San
Filippo heals a possessed woman. 5. The death of the
saint, also very beautiful. 6. Miracles performed by
his relics after his death : his habit is placed on the head
of a sick child, who is immediately healed. The fine
figure of the old man in red drapery, leaning on his
stick, is the portrait of Andrea della Eobbia, one of the
family of famous sculptors.

In the cloisters, over the door which leads into the
church, Andrea del Sarto painted the Riposo, so cele-
brated as the "Madonna del Sacco." And, on the
walls, Benardino Pocetti, Mascagni, and Salimbeni,
clever mannerists of the sixteenth century, painted a
series of subjects from the lives of the original founders


of the Order, of which the best (by Pocetti) represents
the recovery of a child drowned in the Arno, by the
prayers of Amadio. This fresco is celebrated under the
name of Anegato or Affogato, " the Drowned Boy." On
the whole, the black robes of the personages give to
these frescos a spotty and disagreeable effect, and they
are not in any respect first-rate ; yet they are interesting
when considered in reference to their locality and the
history of the origin of the Order. Out of Florence,
St. Philip Benozzi and his companions are not con-
spicuous as subjects of art, though the Order became
popular and widely extended. In 1484 the Serviti
were added to the Mendicant Orders, and from that
time are styled Frati. Father Paul Sarpi, the Vene-
tian, so famous in the political and literary history of
Italy, was of this Order, and would be properly styled
Fra Paolo.

The Trinitarians.

The Order of the Most Holy Trinity, for the Redemption of


Of the many communities, male and female, which
emanated from the Augustine Rule, the most interest-
ing are those which were founded for purposes of mercy
and charity, rather than for self-sanctification through
penance and seclusion. These have, however, afforded
comparatively but few subjects either in painting or

Among the suffering classes of our Christendom,
from the tenth to the fifteenth century, none were more
pitiable than the slaves and prisoners. The wars of
that period had a peculiar character of ferocity, en-
hanced by the spirit of religious hatred : prisoners on
both sides were most inhumanly treated. The nobles
and leaders were usually ransomed, often at the price
of all their worldly goods ; the poorer classes, and fre-
quently women and children, carried off from the mari-


time cities and villages, languished and toiled in a
hopeless slavery, " captives in the land of their ene-

St. John de Matha was born at Faucon, in Prov-
ence, in 1154, of noble parents. As usual, we find
that his mother, whose name was Martha, had educated
him in habits of piety, and consecrated him early to the
service of God.

He, being a student in the University of Paris, be-
came famous there for his learning and holiness of life ;
— and, being ordained priest, at his first celebration of
divine service he beheld a vision of an angel clothed in
white, having a cross of red and blue on his breast, and
his hands, crossed over each other, rested on the heads
of two slaves, who knelt on each side of him. And be-
lieving that in this vision of the mind God spoke to
him, and called him to the deliverance of prisoners and
captives, he immediately sold all his goods, and forsook
the world, to prepare himself for his mission. " He
retired to a desert place, where, at the foot of a little
hill, was a fair, clear, and cold fountain, to which a
white hart did daily resort for refreshment, whence it
was called in Latin Cervus frigidus, and in French
Cerfroy ; and here, with another holy and benevolent
man, named Felix de Valois, the two together arranged
the institution of a new Order for the Redemption of
Slaves, and travelled to Rome to obtain the approbation
of the Pope."

When they came to Rome they were courteously re-
ceived by Pope Innocent III., who having been favored
with the like vision of an angel clothed in white, with
two captives chained (and on this occasion one captive
was a Christian, and the other a Moor, showing that
in this charitable foundation there was to be no distinc-
tion of color or religion), " his holiness did forthwith
ratify the Order, and, by his command, they assumed
the white habit, having on the breast a Greek cross of
red and blue ; the three colors signifying the Three
Persons of the Most Holy Trinity : the white, the


Father Eternal ; the blue, which was the traverse of
the cross, the Son as Redeemer ; and the red, the char-
ity of the Holy Spirit : and he appointed that the
Brotherhood should be called The Order of the Holy
Trinity, for the Redemption of Captives." (Dugdale.)

This being settled, John de Matha and Felix de
Valois — the Clarkson and Wilberforce of their time
— returned to France, and they preached the redemp-
tion of captives through the whole country, collecting a
number of followers who devoted themselves to the
same cause. They were then called Mathurins, and
the name survives in a street of Paris, near which was
one of their first establishments, but the parent monas-
tery was that of Cerfroy. The Pope also gave them,
at Rome, the church and convent since called S. Maria
della Navicella, on the Monte Celio, well known to
those who have been at Rome, for its solitary and
beautiful situation, and for the antique bark which
stands in front of it, and from which it derives its name.

Having collected a large sum from the charitable,
John sent two of his brotherhood to the coast of Africa,
to negotiate for an exchange of prisoners, and for the
redemption of slaves. They returned with one hundred
and eighty-six redeemed Christians. The next year
John went himself to Spain, preaching everywhere the
cause of captives and slaves; then passing over to
Tunis, he returned with one hundred and ten redeemed
captives. On a third voyage, in which he had ransomed
one hundred and twenty slaves, the infidels' furious at
seeing him depart, cut up the sails of the ship into frag-
ments, and broke away the rudder. The mariners
were in despair at being thus abandoned to the winds
and waves. But John, trusting in his good cause, re-
placed the torn sails with' his mantle and those of his
brotherhood; and, throwing himself on his knees,
prayed that God himself would be their pilot. And
behold it was so ; for gentle winds wafted them into
the port of Ostia, But the health of John de Matha
was so completely broken, that he found himself unable


to proceed to France, and the last two years of his life
were spent at Rome, where, in the intervals of a linger-
ing malady, he passed his time in visiting the prisons
and preaching to the poor. And thus he died in the
exercise of those charities to which, from early youth,
he had devoted himself.

St. John de Matha is represented in a white habit,
with a blue and red cross upon his breast, fetters in his
hand or at his feet, and, in general, the vision of the
angel with the two captives is placed in the background.
The peculiar cross and white habit distinguish him from
St. Leonard, wbose beautiful legend has been already
related. (Sacred and Legend. Art.)

Mr. Stirling mentions a picture representing the
Virgin giving San Juan de Mata a purse of money for
the redemption of captives, painted by a certain Fray
Bartolome, who belonged to the Order ; and his effigy
is common in the old French prints. His companion,
St. Felix de Valois, wears the habit of an Augustine
hermit, and is represented sitting in a contemplative
attitude by the side of a fountain, at which a stag or
hind is drinking. There is a series of ten pictures, by
Gomez, representing the lives of these two companion
saints ; but the subjects are not mentioned.

I remember a singular mosaic of a circular form,
executed by Giovanni Cosmata about 1300, and cer-
tainly for this Order. It represents Christ enthroned
and loosing the fetters of two slaves who kneel on each
side. One of these slaves is white, and the other is a
negro. I have lost my note of the church in which
this mosaic exists, but it is probably to be found in S.
Maria della Navicella. (Rome.)

The first founders of the Trinitarians placed them-
selves especially under the protection of St. Radegunda,
whose effigy is often to be found in the houses of the
Order, and in connection with the legend of Juan de
Mata. The story relates that Radegunda was the
daughter of Berthaire, king of Thuringia, and that in
her childhood she was carried away into captivity with


all her family by Clothaire V., king of France (a. d.
564), who afterwards married her. " And this queen
was a virtuous lady, much devoted to prayer and alms-
deeds, often fasting, and chastening herself with hair-
cloth, which she wore under her royal apparel. And
one day, as she walked alone in the gardens of her
palace, she heard the voices of prisoners on the other
side of the wall, weeping in their fetters, and imploring
pity ; and, remembering her early sorrows, she also
wept. And, not knowing how to aid them otherwise,
she betook herself to prayer, whereupon their fetters
burst asunder, and they were loosed from captivity.
And this queen Radegunda afterwards took the religious
habit at the hands of St. Medard, bishop of Noyon,
founded a monastery for nuns at Poitiers, and lived in
great sanctity, ministering to the poor." She is repre-
sented with the royal crown, under which flows a long
veil ; she has a captive kneeling at her feet, and holding
his broken fetters in his hand.

When the Order of the Trinitarians was introduced
into England by Sir William Lucy, of Charlecote, on
his return from the Crusade, he built and endowed for
them Thellesford Priory in Warwickshire, " and dedi-
cated it to the honor of God, St. John the Baptist, and
St. Radegunda."

The Order of Our Lady of Mercy.

Among the converts of St. John Matha, when he
preached the deliverance of captives in Lahguedoc, was
the son of a nobleman of that country, whose name
was Peter Nolasque, or Nolasco. In his youth he had
served in the crusade against the Albigenses, and after-
wards became the tutor or governor of the young king,
James of Aragon. (Don Jayme, el Conquistador.)
Struck with the miseries of war, which he had witnessed
at an early age, and by the fate of the Christians who
were kept in captivity by the Moors, he founded, in


imitation of San Juan Mata, a community for the re-
demption of slaves and captives, and prisoners for debt,
to which he gave the name of " The Order of Our
Lady of Mercy." This foundation was at first military
and chivalrous, and consisted of knights and gentlemen,
with only a few religious to serve in the choir. The
king, Jayme el Conquistador, not only placed himself
at their head, but gave them as a perpetual badge his
own arms. From Barcelona, the Order extended far
and wide, and Peter Nolasco was the first General or
Superior. From this time his long life was spent in
expeditions to the various provinces of Spain, then
under the dominion of the Moors ; to Majorca, and to
the coast of Barbary, whence he returned with many
hundreds of redeemed slaves. He died in 1258.

The fathers of the Order of Mercy, which had lost
its military character, and become strictly religious, ob-
tained the canonization of their Founder in 1628. The
Spanish painters thereupon set themselves to glorify
their new saint; and the convents of the Order of
Mercy, particularly La Merced at Seville, were filled
with pictures in his honor.

St. Peter Nolasco is represented as an aged man,
wearing the white habit, and on his breast the shield or
arms of King James, the badge of the Order : this dis-
tinguishes him from all monks wearing the white habit.
Zurbaran paiuted a great number of pictures from his
life. Two of the best of these are in the Museum at
Madrid : — 1 . St. Peter Nolasco beholds in a vision his
patron, St. Peter the Apostle, who appears to him on
a cross with his head downwards. 2. An angel shows
him in a vision the city of Jerusalem : the angel is vul-
gar, the kneeling saint very fine. Several other pictures
belonging to the same series, and obtained apparently
from the same convent (La Merced at Seville), were in
the Soult Gallery, and others were among the Spanish
pictures collected by King Louis Philippe, and formerly
in the Louvre.

Connected with this order, and often associated with


St. Peter Nolasco, is another saint, Raymond Nonna-
tus, called by the Spaniards San Ramon, who died in
1240 just after being created a cardinal by Gregory IX.
In consequence of the peculiar circumstances attending
his birth he obtained the surname of Nonnatus, and is
in Spain the patron saint of midwives and women in
travail. Mr. Stirling mentions a picture of San Ramon
in which he is represented as having his lips bored
through with a red-hot iron, and a padlock placed ou
his mouth ; according to the legend, this was the bar-
barous punishment inflicted on him while in his voca-
tion as a Friar of Mercy he was redeeming Christian
captives among the Moors. Several interesting pictures
in the Soult Gallery relate to this saint, and not to St.
Raymond de Penaforte, who was quite a different per-
son, and belonged to the Dominican Order.* One of
these pictures (in the Soult Catalogue, No. 22) repre-
sents a chapter of the Order of Mercy held at Barcelona,
in which St. Raymond Nonnatus, habited as cardinal,
presides, and St. Peter Nolasco is seated among the
brethren. Another (No. 24, in the same Catalogue)
represents the funeral obsequies of St. Raymond : he is
extended on a bier, wearing the mitre as general and
grand-vicar of the Order, with the cardinal's hat lying
at his feet. The Pope and the King who assist at the
ceremonv are Grejrorv IX. and St. James of Aragon.
Both these pictures formed part of the series painted by
Zurbaran for the Merced at Seville. Another, which
was in the Spanish Gallery of the Louvre, represents
St. Ravmond wearing; the white habit and badge of the
Order, and the mitre as grand-vicar. In the Cata-
logue it is called, by some extraordinary mistake, San

In the legend of St. Peter Nolasco it is related, that
when he was old and infirm, two angels bore him in
their anus to the foot of the altar in order to receive
the sacrament, and then carried him back to his cell.
This is one of the commonest subjects from the life of

* The History of St. Raymond de Penaforte is given further on.


St. Peter Nolasco, and it admits of great beauty in the
treatment. There were two or three specimens in the
Standish Gallery in the Louvre.* The print was
published in 1628, the year in which St. Peter was

San Pedro Nolasco finding the choir of his convent
occupied by the Virgin and a company of angels (in a
fine picture by Boccanegra), and San Pedro Nolasco
correcting the novices of his Order (by Salcedo), are
mentioned by Mr. Stirling.!

A favorite subject in these convents is Our Lady of
Mercy, Nuestra Senora de la Merced. She is represented
standing, crowned with stars, and wearing on her
breast the badge of the Order, which she likewise holds
in her hand. The attendant angels bear the olive, the
palm, and broken fetters, in sign of peace, victory, and

The Brigittines.

The last of these branches of the Augustine Order
which it is necessary to mention in connection with art
is that of the Brigittines (or Birgitta), founded by St.
Bridget of Sweden, whom we must be careful not to
confound with St. Bridget the primitive saint of Ireland.
This St. Bridget was of the royal blood of Sweden ; at
the age of sixteen she married Ulpho (Wulpho Fulco,
or Foulques), prince of Norica in Sweden, and was the
mother of eight children. She was singularly devout,
and inspired her husband and children with the same
sentiments. After the death of her husband she retired

* Since the year 1848, the pictures composing the Standish Gal-
lery and the Spanish Gallery of the Louvre, all the private property
of King Louis Philippe, have been packed up and their present
destination is unknown to me. The Soult Gallery was sold and
dispersed on the 19th May, 1852.

t The first of these pictures must represent, I think, St. Felix de
Valois, of whom, and not of St. Peter Nolasco, the vision is re-


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 22 of 41)