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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company of cherubs, most of them children, forming a
rich garland of graceful forms and lovely faces. Gazing
up in rapture at this dazzling vision, St. Antony kneels
with arms outstretched to receive the approaching
Saviour. On a table is a vase containing white lilies,
the proper attribute of the saint, painted with such
Zeuxis-like skill, that birds wandering among the aisles
have been seen attempting to perch on it and peck the
flowers." (Artists of Spain, p. 841.) The figures are
larger than life.

St. Antony with the Infant Saviour in his arms or
standing on his book, has been a favorite subject with
the Spanish painters. Murillo — who, it must be re-
membered, was particularly patronized by the Capuchins
of Seville — has painted it nine times, with variations :
one of these is in possession of Mr. Munro ; another,
very beautiful, in the Berlin Gallery.

In the collection of Lord Shrewsbury (Alton Towers),
there is a remarkable picture of this subject attributed
to that extraordinary man Alonzo Cano. St. Antony
sustains in his arms the Infant Christ, whom the Virgin,
above, appears to have just relinquished, and holds her
veil extended as if to resume her divine Child. The
head of Antony is rather vulgar, but most expressive ;
the Child most admirably painted, looking up, as if
half-frightened, to his mother. This is one of the finest
pictures of the Spanish school now in England, but it
is too dramatic in the sentiment and treatment to be
considered as a religious picture.

St. Bonaventura.

The Seraphic Doctor. Cardinal, and Bishop of Albano. July

14, 1274.

Cardinal Boxavextura, styled the Ser<t)>hic /Vic-
tor, was not only the pride aud boast of the Seraphic


Order, but is regarded as one of the great luminaries
of the Roman Catholic Church. He was born at Bagna-
rea in Tuscany, in the year 1221, and baptized by the
name of Giovanni Fidanga. In his infancy he had a
dangerous illness, in which his life was despaired of.
His mother, in the extremity of her grief, laid her child
at the feet of St. Francis, beseeching him to intercede
with his prayers for the life of her son : the child re-
covered. It is related, that when St. Francis saw him
he exclaimed, " O buona ventura ! " and hence the
mother, in a transport of gratitude, dedicated her child
to God by the name of Bonaventura. She brought
him up in sentiments of enthusiastic piety; and while
he surprised his masters by the progress he made in
his studies, she taught him that all his powers, all his
acquirements, and all his faculties of head and heart,
were absolutely dedicated to the Divine service. In
1243, at the age of twenty -two, he took the habit of St.
Francis, and went to Paris to complete his theological
studies. Within a few years he became celebrated as
one of the greatest teachers and writers in the Church.
He was remarkable at the same time for the practice
of all the virtues enjoined by his Order, preached to
the people, attended the sick, and did not shrink from
the lowliest ministering to the poor. His humility was
so great that he scai'cely dared to present himself to
receive the sacrament, deeming himself unworthy ; and,
according to the legend, in recompense of his humility,
the Host was presented to him by the hand of an angel.
While at Paris he was greatly honored by Louis IX.
(St. Louis), and consulted by him on many occasions.
In the year 1256 he was chosen General of the Francis-
can Order, at the age of thirty-five. At that time the
community was distracted by dissensions between those
of the friars who insisted upon the inflexible severity
of the original rule, and those who wished to introduce
innovations. By his mildness and his eloquence he
succeeded in restoring harmony. Pope Clement IV.,
in 1265, appointed him archbishop of York ; Bonaven-


tura declined the honor, and continued to teach and
preach in his own country. A few vears afterwards,
Gregory X. raised him to the dignity of cardinal, and
bishop of Albano, and sent two nuncios to meet him on
the road with the ensigns of his new dignity. They
found him in the garden of a little convent of his Or-
der, near Florence, at that moment engaged in washing
the plate from which he had just dined : he desired them
to hang the cardinal's hat on the bough of a tree till he
could take it in his hands. Hence, in pictures of him,
the cardinal's hat is often seen hangrinff on the bousrh
of a tree. At the great council held in the city of
Lyons in 1274, for the purpose of reconciling the Greek
and Latin Churches, St. Bonaventura was one of the
most distinguished of the ecclesiastics who were present,
and the first who harangued the assembly. He appears
to have acted as the Pope's secretary. The fatigues
which he underwent during this council put an end to
his life : before it was dissolved, he was seized with a
fever, of which he died at the age of fifty-three, and was
buried at Lyons in the church of the Franciscans ; but
during the wars of the League the Huguenots plundered
his shrine and threw his ashes into the river Saone.
He was canonized by Sixtus IV. (himself a Franciscan)
in the year 1462.

In devotional pictures painted for the Franciscans,
Bonaventura is the frequent pendant of St. Francis or
St. Clara. In every picture I have seen he is beard-
less, and his face, though often worn and meagre with
fasting and contemplation, is not marked by the lines
of age.* He is sometimes represented wearing the cope

* The figure of one of the Doctors of the Church in the " Cap-
pella di S. Lorenzo," in the Vatican, painted by Angelico for
Nicholas V., — a beautiful, simple, majestic figure, with an aged
bald head and very long parted beard, the cardinal's hat at his
feet, — represents, I think, St. Jerome, one of the " Four great
Latin Fathers," long established as of primary importance in the
system of ecclesiastical decoration prevalent from the thirteenth
to the sixteenth century. The figure is certainly inscribed St.


over the gray habit of his Order, with the mitre on his
head as bishop of Albano, and the cardinal's hat lying
at his feet or suspended on the branch of a tree behind
him. Sometimes he wears the simple Franciscan habit,
and carries the pix or the sacramental cup in his hand,
or it is borne by an angel ; and, occasionally, we find
him in the full costume of a cardinal (the crimson robes
and the crimson hat), with a book in his hand, signifi-
cant of his great learning. When grouped with St.
Francis, — the superior saint, — he is, in every instance
I can remember, a simple Franciscan friar, distinguished
by the cardinal's hat at his feet, or the sacramental cup
in his hand, or the angel presenting the Host. In the
great picture by Crivelli (coll. of Lord Ward), the Host,
or sacramental wafer, is seen above his head, as if
descending from heaven.

According to a Spanish legend, St. Bonaventura,
after his death, returned to the earth for three days to
complete his great work, the Life of St. Francis. He
is thus represented in a very extraordinary picture
attributed to Murillo (Louvre, Sp. Gal.) ; he is seated
in a chair, wearing his doctor's cap and gown, with a
pen in his hand, and a most ghastly, lifeless expression
of countenance. Mr. Stirling doubts the authenticity
of this picture, but it is very striking.

" St. Bonaventura receiving the Sacrament from the
hand of an Angel " was painted by Van Dyck for the

Bonaventura, but my impression, when I saw these frescos and
examined them with a good glass, was, that the letters underneath
are comparatively modern. We find in their proper places the
other three doctors, St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and St. Gregory :
there was no reason for substituting St. Bonaventura for the great-
est of all, St. Jerome ; besides that Bonaventura died at the age of
fifty-three, is uniformly beardless, and ought to wear the Francis-
can habit and cord, which distinguish him from St. Jerome. This
figure has lately been engraved in an exquisite style by Mr. Gru-
ner for the Arundel Society •, and I suggest these considerations
because it seems of some consequence that the proper traditional
type of a saint so important as Bonaventura should not be liable
to misconception.


Franciscans at Antwerp. It has been coarsely en-

St. Bernardino of Siena, Founder op the

May 20, 1444.

This saint was born at Massa, a little town in the
Sienese territory, in 1380. He was of the noble family
of Albizeschi ; and, after his mother's death, was edu-
cated by bis aunt, Diana degli Albizeschi, to whom he
appears to have owed the development of his talents, as
well as that extreme purity of mind and manners wbich
distinguished his youthful years. He was extremely
beautiful and graceful in person ; but so modest, and,
at the same time, so dignified, that his presence alone
was a restraint on the libertine conversation of his
companions, — as the mere appearance of the youthful
Gato overawed the profligate Romans in the midst of
one of their festivals.

At the age of seventeen he entered a confraternity
devoted to the care of the poor and to the sick in the
hospitals. Soon afterwards a pestilence broke out at
Siena, which carried off a great number of the inhabi-
tants, and, amongst the rest, many of the ministering
priests, as well as the physicians, fell victims to the
pestilence. Bernardino, assisted by twelve young men
like himself, undertook the whole care of the plague
hospital, and for four months attended night and day :
during this time it pleased God to preserve him from
the contagion, but his fatigues brought on a delicacy
of health from which he never recovered.

At the age of twenty-three he took the habit of St.
Francis, and became one of the most celebrated and
eloquent preachers of his Order. His ministry was not
conhned to his own country ; he preached from one end
of Italy to the other, and published a great number
of sermons and treatises of piety, which have a high
reputation in his own Church. Of the wonderful sue-


cess of his preaching, many striking anecdotes are re-
lated. His hearers were not only for the moment
affected and melted into tears, but in many instances
a permanent regeneration of heart and life seemed to
have taken place through his influence. Those who had
defrauded, made restitution ; those who owed money,
hastened to pay their debts ; those who had committed
injustice, were eager to repair it. Enemies were seen
to embrace each other in his presence ; gamblers flung
away their cards ; the women cut off their hair, and
threw down their jewels at his feet : wherever he came,
he preached peace ; and the cities of Tuscany, then dis-
tracted by factions, were by his exhortations reconciled
and tranquillized, at least for a time. Above all, he set
himself to heal, as far as he could, the mutual fury of
the Guelphs and Ghibellines, who, at that period, were
tearing Italy to pieces.

He steadily refused to accept of any ecclesiastical
honors ; the bishopric of Siena, that of Ferrara, and
that of Urbino, were offered to him in vain.

Philip Visconti, duke of Milan, one of the tyrants
of that day, took offence at certain things that he had
spoken in his sermons against the oppressions which
he exercised. The duke threatened him ; and, finding
this in vain, he thought to soften him by the present of
a hundred gold ducats, which he sent to him in a silver
dish. The saint of course declined the present ; but as
the messengers insisted, and averred that they dared
not take it back, he took it from their hands, and,
desiring them to follow him, he repaired to the public
prison and laid out the whole in releasing the poor

He was the founder of a reformed Order of Francis-
cans, styled in Italy Osservartfi, in France Peres 011
Freres de V Observance, because they observed the original
rule as laid down by St. Francis, went barefoot and
professed absolute poverty. This Order became very

The health of St. Bernardino, always delicate, suf-


fered from the fatigues of his mission and the severe
abstinence to which he had condemned himself. While
preaching in the kingdom of Naples, he sank under his
exertions ; being taken ill at Aquila, in the Abruzzi, he
there expired, and there his remains are preserved in
the Church of San Francesco, within a shrine of silver.
He was canonized by Pope Nicholas V. in 1450 : and
there are few saints in the calendar who have merited
that honor so well ; — none better, perhaps, than this
exemplary and excellent friar. He is venerated through-
out the whole of Italy, but more particularly in his na-
tive place, Siena.

It is related of San Bernardino, that when preaching
he was accustomed to hold in his hand a tablet, on
which was carved, within a circle of golden rays, the
name of Jesus. A certain man, who had gained his
living by the manufacture of cards and dice, went to
him, and represented to him that, in consequence of
the reformation of manners, gambling had gone out of
fashion, and he was reduced to beggary. The saint
desired him to exercise his ingenuity in carving tablets
of the same kind as that which he held in his hand, and
to sell them to the people. A peculiar sanctity was
soon attached to these memorials ; the desire to pos-
sess them became general ; and the man, who by the
manufacture of gaming-cards could scarcely keep him-
self above want, by the fabrication of these tablets
realized a fortune. Hence in the devotional figures
of St. Bernardino he is usually holding one of these
tablets, the 3:. 5^?. <S. encircled with rays, in his hand.

Another attribute is the Monte-di-Pieth, a little green
hill composed of three mounds, and on the top either a
cross, or a standard on which is the figure of the dead
Saviour, usually called in Italy a Piet'a. St. Bernard-
ino is said to have been the founder of the charitable
institutions still called in France Monts-de-Piete, orig-
inally for the purpose of lending to the very poor small
sums on trifling pledges, — what we should now call a
loan society, — and which in their commencement were


purely disinterested and beneficial. In every city which
he visited as a preacher, he founded a Monte-di-Pieta ;
and before his death these institutions had spread all
over Italy and through a great part of France*

The best devotional figures of St. Bernardino have a
general resemblance to each other, which shows them
to have been painted from some known original ; prob-
ably the contemporary picture by Pietro di Giovanni.
(Acad. Siena.) He is always beardless ; his figure tall,
slender, and emaciated ; his features delicate and regu-
lar, but haggard and worn ; his countenance mild and
melancholy: he carries in his hand either the tablet
with the name of Jesus, which is the common attribute ;
or the Monte-di-Pieta.

In sculpture, the most beautiful representation of St.
Bernardino is that of Agostino della Robbia, a colossal
figure in high relief on the facade of the chapel of the
Confraternita di San Bernardino at Perugia. Around
him is a glory of eight angels, who are sounding his
praise on various instruments of music ; and the rest
of the facade is covered with elaborate small bas-reliefs
from his life and miracles.

In the separate subjects from his life which are to be

* Although the figures holding the Monte-di-Pietd are, in Ital-
ian prints and pictures, styled M San Bernardino da Siena," there
is reason to presume that the honor is at least shared by anothe r
worthy of the same Order, " II Beato Bernardino da Feltri," a cele-
brated preacher at the end of the fifteenth century. Mention is
made of his preaching against the Jews and usurers, on the mis-
eries of the poor, and on the necessity of having a Monte-di-Pietd
at Florence, in a sermon delivered in the Church of Santa Croce in
the year 1488. Of the extent to which usury was carried in those
times, and of the barbarous treatment of the poorer class of debtors,
we read in most of the contemporary authors ; and it appears that
the Franciscan friars, especially the two Beruardinos, and a cer-
tain Fra Marco di Ravenna (commemorated in a very rare and
curious print called "The Seven Works of Mercy," v. Bartsch,
xiii. p. 88), were instrumental in remedying these evils. But un-
less we could ascertain the date of the first Monte-di-Pietn in Italy,
it would not be easy to determine to which Bernardino the honor
(and the effigy) properly belongs.


met with in the Franciscan churches, he is represented
preaching to a numerous audience, who listen with
eager upturned faces, as in a fine old fresco in the San
Francesco at Perugia ; or he is restoring a young girl
to life who had choked herself by swallowing a bone ;
as in a picture by Pesellino, engraved in Rossini's
work. (" Storia della Pittura.")

The best series of pictures from his life is in his
chapel in the Ara-Celi at Rome, painted by Bernardino
Pinturicchio, who has put forth his best powers to do
honor to his patron saint : —

1. St. Bernardino assumes the Franciscan habit. 2.
He preaches, standing on a little green hillock : the
attitude and expression admirable ; they are those of a
preacher, not an orator. 3. He beholds the crucified
Saviour in a vision. 4. He is seen studying the Scrip-
tures in the solitude of Colombiere, near Siena. 5.
He dies, and is laid on his bier ; the sick, the maimed,
the blind, gather around it to be healed by touching his
remains ; a mother lays down her dead child, and
seems to appeal to the dead saint to. restore it. 6. His
glorification : he appears in Paradise, standing between
St. Louis of Toulouse and St. Antony of Padua.

A very remarkable series is that by Pesellino, which
I recollect to have seen with interest in the sacristy of
San Francesco at Perugia ; but had not time to make
a note of the separate subjects, eight in number.

There is a picture by Ludovico Caracci (Modena
Gal.), of St. Bernardino, " che mostra ai Sotdati In
Citta di Carpi, chi miracolosamente non hi viddero." I
have not found this legend in any life of St. Bernardino
to which I have had access.

St. Elizabeth of Hungary,


Lat. Sancta Elisabetha Mater Pauperum. Hal. Santa Elisabeta
di Ungheria. Fr. Madame Saincte Elisabeth. La chere Sainte
Elisabeth. Sp. Santa Isabel. Oer. Die Heilige Elizabeth von
Tngarn (or, von Hessen). Die liebe Frau Elizabeth. Nov. 19,

Ave gemma speciosa !
Mulierum sydus, rosa !
Ex regali stirpe nata,
Nunc in coelis coronata ;
Mundo licet viro data
Christo tamen desponsata.
Utriusque sponsalia,
Simul servans illibata ;
Saram sequens fide pia,
Et Rebeccam prudentia,
dilecta ! beata !
Nostra esto advocata,
Elisabeth egregia '

From an old German Breviary , printed
at Nuremberg, 1515.

As St. Clara was the traditional type of female
piety, her contemporary, St. Elizabeth, became the tra-
ditional type of female charity. Of all the glorified —
victims must I call them ? or martyrs 1 — of that ter-
rible but poetical fanaticism of the thirteenth century,
she was one of the most remarkable ; and of the sacred
legends of the Middle Ages, hers is one of the most
interesting and most instructive. I call it a legend,
because, though in all the material facts perfectly au-
thentic, and, indeed, forming a part of the history of
her country, there is in it just that sprinkling of the
marvellous and the fanciful which has served to ideal-
ize her character and convert into a poem the story of
her life.

That short, sad life, crowded as it was outwardly


with striking contrasts and vicissitudes of fortune, was
yet more full — filled even to overflowing — with un-
seen, untold joys and sorrows ; with pangs and strug-
gles, such as then haunted the unreasoning minds of
women, distracted between their earthlv duties and
affections and their heavenward aspirations, — as if this
world were not God's world and his care, no less than
that other world ! The story of St. Elizabeth, and
those graceful effigies which place her before us, offering
up her roses, or with her fair crowned head bending
over some ghastly personification of pain and misery,
will be regarded with different feelings according to the
point from which they are viewed. For some will
think more of the glory of the saint ; others, more of
the trials of the woman : some will look upon her with
reverence and devotion as blessed in her charities, and
not less blessed in her self-sacrifice ; others, with a sad
heart-moving pity, as bewildered in her conscience and
mistaken in her faith : — but none, I think, whatever
be their opinions, can read the chronicle of her life
without emotion.*

In the year 1207, Andreas II. was King of Hungary ;
and Herman, of poetical renown, the patron of the
Minnesingers, was Landgrave of Thuringia, and held
his court in the castle of the Wartburg.

In that year the Queen of Hungary brought forth a
daughter, whose birth was announced by many blessings
to her country and her kindred ; for the wars which
had distracted Hungary ceased, and peace and good-
will reigned, at least for a time ; the harvests had never
been so abundant, crime, injustice, and violence had
never been so unfrequent, as in that fortunate year.

* The authorities followed in the life of St. Elizabeth are Count
Montalembert's Histoire de S. Elisabeth de Ho?ujrie, Duchesse
de Thuringe, third edition, and the notes to Mr. Kingsley's beau-
tiful drama, " The SainVs Tragedy." Both cite the original and
often contemporary documents. The common legendaries, re-
counting merely her charities and her miracles, were here almost


Even in her cradle the young Elizabeth showed suffi-
ciently that she was the especial favorite of Heaven.
She was never known to weep from childish petulance ;
the first words she distinctly uttered were those of
prayer ; at three years old she was known to give away
her toys, and take off her rich dresses to bestow them,
on the poor ; and all the land rejoiced in her early
wisdom, goodness, and radiant beauty.

These things being told to Herman of Thuringia by
the poets and wise men who visited his court, he was
filled with wonder, and exclaimed, " Would to God
that this fair child might hecome the wife of my son ! "
and thereupon he resolved to send an embassy to the
King of Hungary, to ask the young princess in mar-
riage for his son, Prince Louis. He selected as his
messengers the Count Reinhard of Muhlberg, Walter
de Varila, his seneschal, and the noble widow, Bertha
of Beindeleben, attended by a train of knights and la-
dies, bearing rich presents. They were hospitably and
favorably received by the King of Hungary and his
queen Gertrude, and returned to Wartburg with the
little princess, who was then four years old. The king,
her father, bestowed on her a cradle and a bath, each of
pure silver and of wondrous workmanship ; and silken
robes curiously embroidered with gold, and twelve no-
ble maidens to attend upon her. He also loaded the
ambassadors with gifts. He sent to the landgrave and
his wife Sophia magnificent presents, — stuffs, and jew-
els, and horses richly caparisoned, and many precious
things which he had obtained through his intercourse
with Constantinople and the East, the like of which had
never before been seen in Western Germany ; and it is
recorded that, whereas the ambassadors had set off on
their mission with two baggage-wagons, they returned
with thirteen.

When the Princess Elizabeth arrived at the castle of
the Wartburg at Eisenach, she was received with infi-
nite rejoicings, and the next day she was solemnly be-
trothed to the young Prince Louis ; and the two chil-


dren being laid in the same cradle, they smiled and
stretched out their little arms to each other, which thing
pleased the Landgrave Herman and the Landgravine
Sophia ; and all the ladies, knights, and minstrels who
were present regarded it as an omen of a blessed and
happy marriage.

From this time the children were not separated ; they
grew up together, and every day they loved each other
more and more. They called each other by the tender
and familiar names of brother and sister; but Louis

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 28 of 41)