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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thirteenth century ; who, moreover, in ignorance of
the spirit of Christ's doctrine, might easily shelter her-
self under the letter; — " If any man come to me, and
hate not his father and mother, and wife and children,
and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he
cannot be my disciple."

"Madam," said an English traveller to the abbess
of a foreign convent, " you are here, not from the love
of virtue, but from the fear of vice." Is not this prin-
ciple the basis of all female education to the present


hour ? Is not fear of evil, rather than faith in good,
inculcated by precept, by example, by all pressure from
without, leaving us unsustained from within ? — with-
out guide as to the relative value of our duties, until
we are made to believe that God's earth and God's
heaven are necessarily opposed to each other 1 A wo-
man thus timid in conscience, thus unstable in faith,
untaught to reason, with feelings suppressed, rather
than controlled and regulated, — whither shall she
carry her perplexed life ? — where lay down the bur-
den of her responsibility 1 May she not be forgiven,
if, like Clara, she yield up her responsibility to her
Maker into other hands, and "lay down her life in
order that she may find it " 1

But we must return from this moral digression to
the effigies of St. Clara. ,

From early times she has been considered as a type
of religious feeling, a personification of female piety ;
and I have seen figures which, no doubt, were intended
to represent St. Clara in her personal character, as
saint, mistaken for allegorical figures of religion.

When she bears the palm (as in this effigy after the
fine intarsiatura in the choir of San Francesco di Assisi)
it is not as martyr. It is the palm of victory over suf-
fering, persecution, and temptation. Or it may repre-
sent here the palm -branch which was taken from the
altar and placed in her hand.

In the very ancient portrait in her church at Assisi,
which bears the date of 1281, and the name of Martin
IV., pope, she carries a cross.

She also bears the lily ; and is distinguished from
the numerous female saints who bear the same emblem
by her gray habit, and the cord of St. Francis, which
stamp her identity at once.

In devotional pictures she is generally young, beau-
tiful, and with a peculiar expression of soft resignation.
She wears the habit of her Order, the gray tunic, the
knotted girdle, and the black veil. Her proper attribute

ST. CLARA. 315

is the Pix containing the Host, in allusion to the mirac-
ulous dispersion of the Saracens.

Sometimes she is kneeling before the Virgin, or our
Saviour ; and presenting the Pix.

As the Madre Serajica, foundress and superior of the
first community of Franciscan nuns, she stands with
her book and her crosier. In the Madonna pictures
painted for her Order, she usually stands on one side
of the throne of the Virgin, and St. Francis on the
other. (Bassano, Vienna Gal.) In a picture by Mo-
retto she is grouped with St. Catherine, the two togeth-
er symbolizing wisdom and piety ; and when grouped
with Mary Magdalene, they are symbols of penitence
and piety.

Pictures from her history, those at least which I have
met with, are confined to three subjects : —

1. She makes her profession by night at the feet of
St. Francis ; as in a picture by Zurbaran. (Aguado

2. She opposes the Saracens. This is the great event
of her life, and is often represented. I remember a pic-
ture in the Bologna Gallery (Lucio Massari), in which
the Saracens, terrible bearded barbarians, are tumbling
backwards over each other from their scaling-ladders,
while St. Clara, carrying the Host, and attended by
her sisterhood, calmly stands above.

3. The most beautiful picture of St. Clara I have
ever seen represents the death of the saint, or rather the
vision which preceded her death ; it was painted by
Murillo, for his friends the Franciscans of Seville, —
" and thence stolen by Soult." I saw it some years
ago in the Aguado Gallery. St. Clara lies on her couch,
her heavenly face lighted up with an ecstatic expression.
Weeping nuns and friars stand around ; — she sees them
not, — her eyes are fixed on the glorious procession
which approaches her bed : first, our Saviour, leading
his Virgin-mother ; they are followed by a company of
virgin-martyrs, headed by St. Catherine, all wearing
their crowns and bearing their palms, as though they


had come to summon her to their paradise of bliss.
Nothing can be imagined more beautiful, bright, and
elysian than these figures, nor more divine with faith
and transport than the head of St. Clara. I do not
know who is now the enviable possessor of this lovely
picture. There is a small poor sketch of the subject in
the Louvre, there called a Murillo.

A series of pictures from her life usually begins with
her profession by night at the feet of St. Francis, but I
have never seen it treated with that picturesque feeling
and effect of which it is susceptible. The walls of her
lonely, venerable old church at Assisi are covered with
a complete series of ancient frescos, attributed to Giot-
tino, but in a most ruined state, having been white-
washed over. I could just make out a few of the
subjects where an attempt had been recently made to
clean them. 1. She receives the palm-branch before
the altar ; 2. she flies from her father's house ; 3. she
kneels before St. Francis, and receives the habit from
his hands ; 4. she dies in presence of the Divine per-
sonages and the virgin-martyrs, as in Murillo's picture ;
5. she is carried to the tomb, — among the attendants
is seen Cardinal Bonaventura.

In the vault over the choir the paintings are less in-
jured, and must have been exquisitely beautiful. There
are four compartments: 1. The Madonna and Child
enthroned ; beside them St. Clara standing ; and around,
angels bearing censers, flowers, and palms. 2. St. Ca-
therine and St. Margaret. 3. St. Agnes, and Agnes
the sister of St. Clara as a nun. 4. St. Christina and
St. Cecilia. I do not know whether any copies or en-
gravings exist of these lovely figures.

The church, as I remember, had a cold, forsaken,
melancholy air. Very different was the impression
made by the Church of San Francesco, which we en-
tered at the moment when it was crowded with worship-
pers, and the sounds of a magnificent organ, swelled
by human voices, rolled through the dimly lighted
vaults, — dim, yet glorious ; covered, wherever the eye


could penetrate, with groups from sacred story ; with
endless variety of ornament — with color, with life, with
beauty !

St. Antony of Padua.

Lat. Sanctus Antonius Thaumaturgus. Ital. Sant' Antonio di
Padova, II Santo. Sp. San Antonio de Padua, Sol brillante de
la Iglesia, Lustre de la Religion Serafica, Gloria de Portugal,
Honor de Espana, Tesorero de Italia, Terror del Infierno, Mar-
tillo Fuerte de la Heresia, entre los Santos por excelencia, el
Milagrero. June 13, 1231 .

Habit. Gray in the earliest pictures, afterwards dark brown,
with the hood and cord of St. Francis.

Attributes. The book and lily ; a flame of fire in his hand, or
in his breast. The infant Christ in his arms, or on his book. A
mule kneeling.

Even in the lifetime of St. Francis, arose one who
imbibed his spirit and carried out his views, and whose
popularity in religious art is next to his own. St. An-
tony of Padua was a Portuguese by birth ; and at the
time that the remains of the five friars who had suffered
martyrdom at Morocco were brought to Libson, he
was so touched by the recital of their sufferings, that he
took the habit of St. Francis, and devoted himself to
the life of a missionary, with a fixed determination
to obtain the crown of martyrdom in the cause of
Christ. For this purpose he set off for Morocco to
convert the Moors, but God had disposed of him other-
wise, for, having landed in Africa, he was seized with
a lingering illness, which paralyzed all his efforts, and
obliged him to re-embark for Europe. Contrary, or,
as they may be called, favorable winds drove him to
the coast of Italy, and he arrived at Assisi at the very
moment when St. Erancis was holding the first general
chapter of his Order. St. Francis was soon aware of
the value of - such a coadjutor, and, feeling the want of
a man of science and learning in his community, en-
couraged him to devote himself to his studies. Antony


did so, and taught divinity with great distinction in the
universities of Bologna, Toulouse, Paris, and Padua ;
but at length he forsook all other employments, re-
nounced the honors of the schools, and devoted himself
wholly as a preacher among the people. To an easy
graceful carriage, a benign countenance, and a flow of
most persuasive eloquence, he added advantages not
yet displayed by any of the Franciscan teachers, —
great skill in argument, and an intimate acquaintance
with the learning of the theological schools.

I will not now dwell upon the miracles which the
enthusiasm of his followers afterwards imputed to him.
There can be no doubt that he exercised, in his life-
time, as a missionary preacher, a most salutary and
humanizing influence. Italy was at that time distracted
by intestine wars, and oppressed by a tyranny so mon-
strous, that, if it were but possible, we should, for the
honor of humanity, take refuge in unbelief. The ex-
cesses and barbarities of the later Eoman emperors
seemed to be outdone by some of the petty sovereigns
of Northern Italy. Antony, wherever he came, preached
peace, but, to use his own words, it " was the peace of
justice, and the peace of liberty." The generous bold-
ness with which he rebuked the insane cruelties of
Eccellino, seeking him in his own palace to ^denounce
him as " intolerable before God and man," ought to
cover him with eternal honor. Everywhere he pleaded
the cause of the poor, and, the crowds who assembled
to hear him being greater than could be contained in
any church, he generally preached in the open air.
Like St. Francis, he was a man of a poetical imagina-
tion, and a tender heart, overflowing with the love of
nature, and particularly of the lower creatures, appeal-
ing to them often as examples to his audience. The
whiteness and gentleness of the swans, the mutual
charity of the storks, the purity and fragrance of the
flowers of the field, — these he dwelt on often with
delight ; and as St. Francis was said to have preached
to the fowls of the air, so St. Antonv is said to have


preached to the fishes of the sea. The plain fact seems
to have been, that in preaching to some obstinate un-
believers he was heard to say that he might as well
preach to the fishes, for they would more readily listen
to him ; but the legend relates the story thus : — " St.
Antony being come to the city of Rimini, where were
many heretics and unbelievers, he preached to them
repentance and a new life ; but they stopped their ears,
and refused to listen to him. Whereupon he repaired
to the sea-shore, and, stretching forth his hand, he said,
'Hear me, ye fishes, for these unbelievers refuse to
listen ! ' and, truly, it was a marvellous thing to see
how an infinite number of fishes, great and little, lifted
their heads above water, and listened attentively to the
sermon of the saint ! " The other miracles .related of
St. Antony I pass over here : it will be sufficient to
describe the pictures in which they are represented.
After an active ministry of ten years, he died, worn out
by fatigues and austerities, in his thirty-sixth year,
reciting his favorite hymn to the Virgin, — " O gloriosa
Doniina ! " The brotherhood desired to keep his
death a secret, that they might bury him in their
church, fearing that the citizens of Padua would appro-
priate the remains ; but the very children of the city,
being: divinelv instigated thereto, ran about the streets
crvinjr with a loud voice, " II Santo e morto ! II Santo
e morto ! " whence it has been the custom in Padua,
from that time even to this day, to style St. Antony II
Santo, without adding his name.

Within a year after his death he was canonized by
Pope Gregory IX., and the citizens of Padua decreed
that a church should be exacted to him at the public
expense. Niccola Pisano plauned and commenced this
magnificent edifice in 1237, but it was not brought to
its present form for two centuries later. " The exterior,
with its extraordinary spires and its eight domes, has
somewhat the appearance of a mosque. Within, the
lofty polygonal apsis with its elongated pointed arches,
and the rich Gothic screens which surround the choir,


testify to the partiality of the Franciscans for the Gothic
style, which, in Italy, they seem to have considered as
more peculiarly their own." (v. Murray's Handbook.)

The chapel which contains the shrine of the saint
was begun in 1500 by Giovanni Minello, and Antonio
his son ; continued by Sansovino, and completed by
Faleonetto in 1553. It is one mass of ornament,
splendid with marble and alabaster sculpture, bronzes,
and gold and silver lamps, — the very luxury of de-

There is not in all Italy a church more rich in monu-
ments of ancient and modern art than this of Sant'
Antonio. Among the most curious of these monu-
ments must be reckoned the earliest known effigy of
St. Antony, and which appears to have been followed
in all the best representations of him. He is a young
man, with a mild melancholy countenance, no beard,
wearing the habit and cord of St. Francis, the right
hand extended in benediction, the Gospel in the left ; a
votary kneels on each side. In the devotional figures
his most usual attributes are the lily and the crucifix ;
the lily being sometimes twined round the crucifix. In
pictures of the Siena school he holds a flame of fire
in his hand, as emblem of his ardent piety. A very
common representation is that of St. Antony caressing
the Infant Christ, who is seen standing upon his book ;
or he holds the divine Infant in his arms. In such
representations we must be careful to distinguish him
from St. Francis.

It is related that on one occasion, as he was expound-
ing to his hearers the mystery of the Incarnation, the
form of the Infant Christ descended and stood upon his
book. This is called " the Vision of St. Antony of
Padua," and is a very frequent subject.

The miracles and incidents of the life of St. Antony,
either treated as a series or as separate pictures, gener-
ally find a place in every Franciscan church or con-
vent. The most celebrated series which occurs in
painting is that which was executed by Titian and


Campagnola in a building near his church at Padua,
called the " Scuola del Santo," a kind of chapter-
house belonging to the convent. There is another
example at Bologna (S. Petronio). The most cele-
brated instance in sculpture is the fine series of basso-
relievos on the walls of the chapel which contains his
shrine (Padua). In these, and in every other instance
I can remember, the subjects selected are the same.
The miracles attributed to St. Antony are all of a
homely aud prosaic character when they are not mani-
festlv absurd ; the influence he exercised in the domes-
tic and social relations of life seems to have suggested
most of these legends : —

1 . The saint, after laying aside the Augustine habit,
receives the Franciscan habit at Coimbra in Portugal.
On this occasion he dropped his baptismal name of
Ferdinand, and took that of Antony, the patron of the
convent at Coimbra.

2. A certain noble lady, dwelling in Padua, was the
wife of a valiant officer ; and not less remarkable for
her beauty and modesty, than for her particular devo-
tion to the saint. Her husband, wrought upon by some
malignant slanderer, stabbed his innocent wife in a
transport of jealousy, and then rushed from his house
in an agony of despair and remorse ; but meeting St.
Antony, he was induced to return home, where he
found his wife still breathing. The saint restored her
by his prayers, which had such an effect upon the hus-
band " che di Lupo ch' egli era divenisse un agnelh."

The fresco is by Titian.

3. A certain noble lady of Lisbon was beloved by
a youth, her equal in rank ; but a deadly feud, like that
of the Moutagus and Capulets, had long separated the
two families ; and no sooner did her brothers suspect
the object of her love, than they resolved to assassinate
him. Shortly after, the young man was slain in the
public streets, and his body was buried in a garden be-
longing to Martin Bullone, the father of St. Antony.



The old man was accused as the author of his death,
thrown into prison, and was about to be led to execu-
tion, when St. Antony, who at that time was preaching
the Gospel at Padua, was transported by an angel to
Lisbon, and suddenly appeared in bodily form before
the judgment-seat, to the infinite astonishment of the
judge, the accusers, and not less of the accused. " Then
Antony, raising his voice, commanded that the dead
body of the murdered youth should be produced, and
enforced him to speak and acquit the old man of any
share in his death ; which wonderful and indeed almost
incredible event is related, with all the particulars, in
the life of the saint written by Lelio Mancini Poliziano."
The bas-relief of this subject is by Campagna, a pupil
of Sansovino. The fresco is by one of Titian's scholars.

4. A young maiden named Carilla, being drowned,
is restored by the prayers of the saint.

The bas-relief is a chef-d'oeuvre of Sansovino. The
fresco is poor.

5. A young child, who was scalded to death, is also
restored at the intercession of the saint.

The bas-relief is by Cataneo. The fresco is not re-

6. St. Antonio, being called upon to preach the
funeral sermon of a very rich man, who had been re-
markable for his avarice and his usury, chose for his
text, " Where the treasure is, there will the heart be
also," and, instead of praising the dead, denounced him
as condemned for his misdeeds to eternal punishment.
" His heart," he said, " is buried in his treasure chest ;
go seek it there, and you will find it." Whereupon
the friends and relations going to break open the chest,
found there the heart of the miser, amid a heap of
ducats ; and this miracle was further established when,
upon opening the breast of the dead man, they found
his heart was gone : which extraordinary event occurred
in the city of Florence, and is related by the same
veracious author, Lelio Mancini Poliziano.

The bas-relief by Tullio Lombardi is very dramatic.


The fresco is supposed to be by Campagnola, and is
also extremely expressive ; the astonished physician and
his assistants are in the act of anatomizing the dead
usurer. There is also an elaborate bas-relief in bronze
by Donatello.

There is a little picture by Pesellino of this subject,
which is far superior to any of the above examples.
It originally formed part of the predella of an altar-
piece in Santa Croce. The group of listening women
ranged in front is exquisite for simplicity, grace, and
devout faith in the power of the saint. Mr. Rogers
has the original drawing.

7. There was a certain youth of Padua named Leo-
nardo, who came to make confession to the saint, and
revealed to him, with many tears, that in a fit of anger
he had kicked his mother. The saint, unable to restrain
his horror and indignation at such an unnatural crime,
exclaimed " that the foot that had so offended deserved
to be cut off! " The young man, rushing from the
confessional in despair, seized an axe and cut off his
foot. A spectator ran to inform the saint, who hastened
to the youth, and by his prayers healed the severed

The bas-relief is by Tullia Lombardi. The fresco
by Titian. In both the mother is interceding for her
guilty son. There is another example by Trevisani.

8. There was a certain Alcardino, a soldier by pro-
fession, who, as it should seem, was little better than
an atheist, for he absolutely refused to believe in the
miracles of the saint ; and when the children ran about
the streets, crying out " II Santo e morto," he only
shrugged his shoulders. " I will believe," he said, " in
all these wonders if the glass cup which I hold in my
hand be not broken"; and he at the same time flung
it from the balcony where he stood, upon the marble
pavement below. The slab of marble was broken by
the collision ; the glass remained uninjured ; a miracle
that must have sufficed to convince the most obstinate


heretic in the world : accordingly we arc assured that
Alcardino was ever after a reverent believer in the
power of Sant' Antonio.

The bas-relief is by Gian-Maria di Padova. The
fresco by one of Titian's scholars.

9. A nobleman of Ferrara, the husband of a beauti-
ful and virtuous wife, had been induced to believe her
unfaithful, and treated her with extreme harshness.
The lady brought forth a son, which the husband re-
fused to consider as his own offspring, and the unhappy
mother, wellnigh in despair, entreated the interference
of Sant' Antonio. The saint repaired to the house, and
desired that the child might be brought to him in
presence of the father. He then desired that the infant
should be unswathed, and commanded him to declare
who was his real father, upon which the child, stretching
out his little hands, pronounced his name. Then Saint
Antony placed the child in the arms of the father, at
the same time reciting the words of the psalm, " Out
of the mouths of babes and sucklings," &c.

The bas-relief is by Antonio Lombardi. The fresco,
by far the best of all those in the Scuola, is by Titian :
the heads very fine and expressive, and the story ad-
mirably told.

10. The legend of the mule is one of the most popu-
lar of the miracles of St. Antony, and is generally found
in the Franciscan churches. It occurs three or four
times in the church at Padua. A certain heretic called
Bovidilla entertained doubts of the real presence in the
sacrament, and after a long argument with the saint,
required a miracle in proof of this favorite dogma of
the Roman Catholic Church. St. Antony, who was
about to carry the Host in procession, encountered the
mule of Bovidilla, which fell down on its knees at the
command of the saint, and, although its heretic master
endeavored to tempt it aside by a sieve-full of oats, re-
mained kneeling till the Host had passed.


3 2 5

The bronze bas-relief in the Chapel of the Sacrament
is by Donatello (Padua). The fresco is attributed to
Campagnola. The same subject was painted by Van
Dyck for the Recollets at Maliues.

11. St. Antony rebukes the tyrant Eccellino, who
humbles himself before him. The fresco is in the
Scuola, and this is the only example I have seen of an
incident which is worth all the miracles together.

12. Luca Belludi after the death of St. Antony,
while weeping before the altar, and deploring the suf-
ferings of Padua under the horrible tyranny of Eccel-
lino, is comforted by a vision of the saint, who foretells
the death of the tyrant. This subject is in the Scuola.
The chapel in which this revelation is said t© have
occurred is the Chapel of St. Philip and St. James,
called also the Capella Belludi, and celebrated for the
ancient frescos to which I have already referred (Le-
gend. Art) ; and I may add, that the figure of a war-
rior on horseback in the Crucifixion of St. Philip is,
according to an ancient tradition, the portrait of
Eccellino. The tomb of Luca Belludi is of late date,
about 1791.

13. Thirty-two years after the death of St. Antony,
his remains were transported to the church erected to
his honor. On this occasion the tomb being opened
in the presence of Cardinal Bonaventura, and Jacopo
di Carrara, prince of Padua, the tongue of the saint
was found entire. This scene has been painted in
fresco by Contarini.

Perhaps the finest work ever executed in honor of
St. Antony of Padua is the great picture by Murillo in
the Cathedral at Seville. " Kneeling near a table, the
shaven brown-frocked saint is surprised by a visit from
the Infant Jesus, a charming naked Babe, who descends
in a golden flood of glory, walking the bright air as if


it were the earth, while around him floats and hovers a

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 27 of 41)