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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a member of the Third Order of St. Francis. She
lived in the thirteenth century, and was conspicuous for
her charity, her austerity, her eloquence, and the moral
influence she exercised over the people of Viterbo.
Living, she was their benefactress, and has since been
exalted as their patroness in heaven. Besides the local
effigies, which are numerous, I remember her in a beau-
tiful picture by Fra Paolino da Pistoia (a scholar of
Fra Bartolomeo), an " Assumption of the Virgin," in
which she figures below with St. Francis and St. Ur-
sula. (Florence Acad.)

" Santa Rosa di Viterbo haranguing an audience," is
the subject of a picture by Sebastian Gomez.


We must be careful to distinguish St. Rosa di Vi-
terbo, the Franciscan nun, from St. Rosa di Lima, the
Dominican nun.

St. Fraxcis de Paula, founder of the reformed
Franciscan Order of the Minimes, was born at Pacla,
a little city in Calabria, on the road between Naples
and Reggio. His parents, who were poor and virtuous,
had from his earliest infancy dedicated him to a relig-
ious life. He accompanied them on a pilgrimage to the
shrine of his patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi ; on his
return home he withdrew to a solitary cavern near
Reggio, and turned hermit at the age of fifteen.

After a while the fame of his sanctity caused others
to join him ; the people of the neighborhood built for
them cells and a chapel, and from this time (1436)
dates the institution of the Minimes, or Hermits of St.
Francis. They followed the Franciscan rule with ad-
ditional austerities, keeping Lent all the year round.

Francis de Paula took for the motto of his brother-
hood the word Charity, because the members professed
intimate love and union not only towards each other,
but to all mankind ; and they were to be styled Min-
imes, as being not only less, but the least of all in the
Church of God,

The fame of his sanctity, and of many miraculous
cures performed for the sick, at length reached the ears
of Louis XI. of Frauce, who was then dying in his
castle of Plessis-le-Tours, like an old wolf in his den.
He sent to desire the presence of the man of God (for
so he termed him), promising him great privileges for
his Order, and princely recompense, if he would visit
him. Francis, who thought that this desire to see him
proceeded more from a wish to prolong life than to
prepare for death, declined the invitation. Louis then
addressed himself to Sixtus IV., and, by the command
of the pontiff, Francis repaired to Tours.

When he arrived at Amboise he was met by the


dauphin and by the greatest lords of the court, — hon-
ored, says Philippe de Comines, " comme s'il eut ete le
Pape." On his arriving at the castle of Plessis, Louis
fell prostrate at his feet, and entreated of him to obtain
from Heaven the prolongation of his life. The good
simple friar displayed on this occasion more good sense
and dignity, as well as more virtue, than the king, de-
scended from a line of kings : he rebuked Louis, told
him that life and death were in the hands of God, and
that no hope remained for him but in submission to the
Divine will ; he then performed for him the last offices
of religion After the death of Louis, Charles VIII.
and Louis XII detained the good saint almost continu-
ally in France, and near the court, where he had great
influence. The courtiers called him, in derision, " Le
Bonhomme " , but the people gave that title to him and
to his Order in a different spirit, and the " Bons-hom-
mes " became very popular in Trance.

St. Francis de Paula died at Plessis-le-Tours in 1507.
Louise d'Angouleme, the mother of Francis I., pre-
pared his winding-sheet with her own hands, and he
was canonized by Leo X. in 1519. In 1562 the Hugue-
nots rifled his tomb, and burned his remains, using for
that purpose the wood of a large crucifix which they
had hewed to pieces. This circumstance, at once a
desecration and a consecration, rather increased his
popularity with the opposite party. There was no saint
whose effigy was so commonly met with in France —
icas, for since the Revolution " nous avons change" tout

Of course there are no very early pictures of St.
Francis de Paula. The best are Spanish, and the best
of these by Murillo, who painted him for his beloved
Capuchins at least six times.

The saint is represented as a very old man with a
long gray beard. He wears a dark-brown tunic and
the cord of St. Francis. The peculiarity of the habit,
and that which distinguishes the Miuimes from the
Cordeliers, consists in the s.hort scapulary hanging down


in front a little below the girdle and rounded off at the
ends, to the back of which is sewn a small round hood
(not pointed behind like that of the Capuchins), fre-
quently drawn over the head. In pictures the word
" Charitas " is generally introduced ; sometimes it is
displayed in a glory ahove, sometimes it is written on
a scroll carried by an angel.

There is a picture by Lavinia Fontana (Bologna
Gal.) representing Louise, duchesse d'Angouleme, at-
tended by four Ladies of honor, kneeling at the feet of
St. Francis de Paula, to whom she presents her infant
son, afterwards Francis I. The heads in this picture,
as might be expected from Lavinia Fontana, one of the
best portrait-painters of her time, have all the spirited
and life-like treatment of portraiture. The whole pict-
ure is beautifully painted, — in some parts equal to

It is related in the legendary life of this saint, that
when he was about to cross the strait from Reggio to
Messina, and the mariners refused to convey him, he
spread his mantle on the waves, stepped upon it, accom-
panied by two lay brothers, and thus they were borne
over the sea, till they landed safely at Messina. This,
as I have already observed, is a legend common to
many saints, from whom St. Francis de Paula is dis-
tinguished by his dress, as described, and by his two
companions There is a fine picture of this subject in
the Louvre (Sp. Gal.), in which the calm trust of the
saint and his companions, and the astonishment of the
Sicilian peasants who behold their approach to the
shore, are very well expressed.

A large and fine picture by Solimene (Dresden Gal.
No. 954) exhibits St. Francis de Paula kneeling, and
commending to the care of the Madonna and Infant
Saviour a beautiful little boy about three years old,
who is presented by his guardian Angel. The divine
Child, with a most sweet and gracious expression,
stretches out his hand to receive his little votary, whom
I suppose to be the godson of the saint, Francis I.


Kings, not children, figure in the legend of St. Francis
de Paula.

For this saint Charles VIII. founded and endowed
the Church of the Trinita-de'-Monti, at Rome.

St. Juan de Dios was the founder of the Hospi-
tallers, or Brothers of Charity : he is the subject of one
of Murillo's finest pictures, and his story is very inter-

He was born in Portugal, at Monte-Mayor, in the
diocese of Evora, in the year 1495. His parents were
poor, and unable to do anything for his education, but
his mother brought him up in habits of obedience and
piety. It happened that, when he was about nine years
old, a certain priest, travelling in those parts, came to
their "door and asked hospitality- He was kindly re-
ceived and lodged for some time in their house. This
man had been a great traveller, and had passed through
many vicissitudes of fortune. His conversation awak-
ened in the child that love of adventure which distin-
guished him for so many years of his life. He ran
away from his father's cottage in company with this
priest, who, after seducing him from his home, aban-
doned him on the road to Madrid, and left him at a little
village near Oropesa, in Castile.

The boy, thus forsaken, hired himself to a shepherd,
in whose service he remained some years ; he then en-
listed in the army, served in the wars between Charles
V. and Francis I., and became a brave, reckless, prof-
ligate soldier of fortune. Once or twice the impres-
sions of piety, early infused into his mind by his good
mother, were revived through the reverses he met with.
He was wounded almost to death on one occasion ; and
on another, having been placed as sentinel over some
booty taken from the enemy x which, in one of his rev-
eries, he suffered to be carried off, his commanding
officer ordered him to be hanged upon the spot : the
rope was already round his neck, when another officer



of high rank, passing by, was touched with compassion,
and interfered to save his life, but only on condition
that he should immediately quit the camp. Juan re-
turned to his old master at Oropesa, and resided with
him some years ; but his restless spirit again drove him
forth into the world, and he joined the levies which the
Count d'Oropesa had raised for the war in Hungary.
(a. d. 1532.) He remained in the army till the troops
were sent back to Spain and disbanded ; then, after
paying his devotions at the shrine of Compostella, he
returned to his native village of Monte-Mayor. Here
he learned that, in consequence of his flight, his mother
and his father had both died of grief. Remorse took
such possession of his mind as to shake his i-eason. He
regarded himself as a parricide. He determined that
the rest of his life should be one long expiation of his
filial ingratitude and disobedience. Not knowing for
the pi*esent how to gain a living, he hired himself as
shepherd to a rich widow, Dona Leonora de Zuniga,
who had a large farm near the city of Seville. In this
situation he gave himself up to prayer and to medita-
tion on his past life. The vices, the misery, the suffer-
ing of every kind which he had witnessed had left a
deep impression upon a character which appears to have
been* singularly endowed by nature, and perpetually at
strife with the circumstances of his position. He con-
trasted the treatment of the miserable poor with that of
the horses in Count d'Oropesa's stable ; even the sheep
of his flock were better cared for, he thought, than
multitudes of wretched souls for whom Christ had died.
These reflections pressed upon him until at length he
quitted the service of his mistress, and repaired to
Morocco with the intention of ministering to the cap-
tives amongst the Moors : he even aspired to the glory
of martyrdom. Being come to Gibraltar, he found there
a Portuguese nobleman, who, with his wife and four
daughters, had been banished to Ceuta, on the opposite
coast of Africa : he thought he could not do better than
engage in the service of this unfortunate family. At


Ceuta they were all reduced to the greatest misery by
poverty and sickness ; the aaughters sold their clothes
and ornaments ; the unhappy father was overwhelmed
with despair. Juan, after having sold the little he
possessed, hired himself out as a laborer, and supported
the whole family, for some time, by his daily labor.
He ceased not his charitable cares till they had found
relief elsewhere ; then, relinquishing, as too presumptu-
ous, his hope of martyrdom, ne returned to Spain, and
lived for some time by selling religious books and im-
ages of saints, devoting himself meanwhile to the minis-
try of the wretched and the poor. He had a vision at
this time, in which he fancied he beheld a radiant child,
holding in his hand a pomegranate (pomode- Granada,)
and the child said to him, " Go, thou shalt bear the
cross in Granada." He repaired, therefore, to Granada,
where the people were celebrating the festival of Saint
Sebastian. The crowd was unusually great because of
the presence of a famous preacher, who made such an
impression on Juan's already excited mind, that, in the
midst of the church, he burst into shrieks and lamenta-
tions : then, rushing through the streets with cries of
"mercy! mercy!" he cast himself upon the stones.
The people seized him and carried him to a mad-house,
where, in his paroxysms of violence, they adopted the
only remedy ever thought of in those times, — they
scourged him every day till the blood flowed from his
wounds. The preacher whose sermon had reduced him
to this condition came to see him, and, struck with
pity, perhaps with remorse, applied himself to heal this
perturbed spirit : his gentle voice restored the patient to
calmness, and he was liberated.

From this time forth, persisting in his vocation, he
dedicated himself to the service of the sick and the poor.
He began by bringing first one, then another, to his
own little home, a deserted shed, so small it scarcely
held two or three persons : when it was full he laid
himself down on the outside. Bv degrees the number
increased ; a few charitable people united themselves


with him, and thus began the first Hospital of the Order
of Charity. He was accustomed to dedicate the whole
day to the ministry of his sick poor ; and towards the
night he went forth for the purpose of seeking out the
deserted wretches, whom he frequently carried on his
back to the refuge he had prepared for them. He
worked for them, he begged for them. The eloquence
of his appeals was almost irresistible, so that those whom
he protected wanted for nothing. He contrived a large
building, in which to receive in the winter-time poor
houseless travellers who were passing through the city :
it was circular, with a great fire in the midst, and some-
times contained not fewer than two hundred destitute

It does not appear to me that Juan de Dios ever
entertained the idea of founding a religious Order and
placing himself at the head of it. He formed no plan
of conduct. He drew up no rules for himself or others.
He did his work of charity with a singleness of mind
and purpose, a passionate, concentrated devotion, which
looked not to the right nor to the left, nor even for-
ward ; he saw nothing but the misery immediately be-
fore him ; he heard nothing but the cry for help, — lie
craved nothing but the means to afford it. Thus passed
ten years of his life, without a thought of himself; and
when he died, exhausted in body, but still fervent and
energetic in mind, he, unconsciously as it seemed, be-
queathed to Christendom one of the noblest of all its
religious institutions.

Under how many different names and forms has the
little hospital of Juan de Dios been reproduced through-
oat Christian Europe, Catholic and Protestant ! Our
houses of refuge, our asylums for the destitute ; the
brotherhood of the " Caritad " in Spain, that of the
" Misericordia " in Italy, the "Maisons de Charite" in
France, the " Barmherzigen Briider " in Germany, —
all these sprang out of the little hospital of this poor,
low-born, unlearned, half-crazed Juan de Dios ! I won-
der if those who go to visit the glories of the Alhambra,


and dream of the grandeur of the Moors, ever think of

Juan de Dios died at Granada in 1550. He was
beatified by Urban VIII., and canonized by Alexander
VIII. in 1690. In France he was honored as " le bien-
heureux Jean de Dieu, Pere des Pauvres."

There are few good pictures of this saint, but many
hundreds of bad ones. Formerly, every hospital "della
Misericordia," and every " Maison de Charite'," con-
tained his effigy in some form or other. In general he
is represented wearing the dark-brown tunic, hood, and
large falling cape of the Capuchins ; he has a long
beard, and holds in his hand a pomegranate (pomo-de-
Granada), surmounted by a cross, a poor beggar kneel-
ing at his feet. He is thus represented in the colossal
statue of white marble which stands in St. Peter's.
Pictures of him often exhibit in the background the
interior of a hospital, with rows of beds.

The only representation of this good saint which can
rank high as a work of art is a famous picture by Mu-
rillo, painted for the church of the " Caritad " at Seville.
In a dark stormy night, Juan is seen staggering —
almost sinking — under the weight of a poor dying
wretch, whom he is carrying to his hospital. An angel
sustains him on his way. " The dark form of the bur-
den, and the sober gray frock of the bearer, are dimly
seen in the darkness, through which the glorious counte-
nance of the seraph, and his rich yellow drapery, tell
like a burst of sunshine." (Artists of Spain, p. 860.)
Mr. Ford says of this picture, "equal to Rembrandt in
powerful effect of light and shade." I have heard
others say, that in power of another kind, appealing
irresistibly to the heart, it also excels ; they could not
look up to it without being moved to tears. The
companion picture was the " St. Elizabeth " already
described. The latter, rescued from the Louvre, was
on its way to Seville, to be restored to the church
whence it had been stolen ; but, detained by government
officials, it now hangs on the walls of the Academy at


Madrid, " and no pale Sister of Charity, on her way to
her labors of love in the hospital, implores the protec-
tion, or is cheered by the example, of the gentle St.
Elizabeth." It is some comfort that " The Charity of
San Juan de Dios " remains in its original situation.

We do not in this country decorate hospitals and asy-
lums with pictures, — unless, perhaps, ostentatious por-
traits of Lord Mayors, donors, and titled governors ;
otherwise I would recommend as a subject, " Dr. John-
son carrying home, in his arms, the wretched woman
he had found senseless in the street " : — even though it
might not equal in power Murillo or Rembrandt, the
sentiment and the purpose would be sufficient to conse-
crate it.

St. Felix de Caxtalicio is chiefly remarkable for
having been the first saint of the Order of the Capu-
chins, and figures onlv in the convents of that Order.
He was born at Citta Ducale, in Urabria, in the year
1513, of very poor parents. He betook himself to a
Capuchin convent, and was at first received as a lay
brother ; but afterwards took the habit, and was sent to
the Capuccini at Rome , here he passed forty-five years
of his life in the dally mission of beg<rino- for his con-
vent. It was his task to provide the bread and the
wine, and it was observed that there had never been
known, either before or after, such an abundance of
these provisions as during his time. His prayers and
penances, his submission and charity, were the admira-
tion of his own community, and at length of all Rome.
He died in the year 1 587. The" Capuchins were extreme-
ly anxious to have him canonized, and the usual mira-
cles were not wanting as proofs of his beatitude ; but it
was not till the year 1G25 that Urban VIII., at the
urgent entreaty of his brother, Cardinal Barberini, who
had himself been a Capuchin, consented to give him a
place in the Calendar of Saints.

At this time the Italian schools of painting were on
the decline, and the Spanish schools rising into pre-


eminence. The Superior of the Capuchins at Seville
was amongst the early patrons of Murillo. The result
has been, that it would be difficult to find in Italy a
good picture of this saint, while there are several of ex-
traordinary beauty in the Spanish schools. He is repre-
sented in the habit of his Order, the dark-brown tunic,
large peaked hood hanging down behind, hempen girdle,
and wooden sandals : his proper attribute, which dis-
tinguishes him from other saints of the Order, is the
beggar's wallet, with two ends like a purse, slung over
his shoulder, to contain the alms begged for his convent.
It is related of him, that, going out one stormy night
to beg for the poor brethren of his convent, he met the
vision of a child, radiant with beneficence and beauty,
who offered him alms in the shape of a loaf of bread,
and then, giving him his benediction, vanished from his
sight. This legend is frequently met with in the pict-
ures of the Spanish school.

St. Diego d'AlcalA was anofher Capuchin saint,
canonized, as it seems to me, from very unworthy
motives, in times when the title of Saint was bestowed
with a shocking and presumptuous levity, as if it were
a mere decoration at the button-hole ; and an official
place in heaven given away like a place at court, or
sold " for a consideration."

Of this Diego d'Alcala there is not much to be said.
He was a lay brother in a Capuchin convent at Alcala,
about 14G3 ; and — as far as I can understand, after
wading with much pain- and disgust through a very
lying and, what is worse, vulgar and unmeaning legend
— lie seems to have been an ignorant simple creature ;
not answerable, lie, poor man ! fur the palpable and
interested inventions of his brotherhood. He was can-
onized by Sixtus V. (himself a Franciscan), at the re-
quest of Philip II. It appears that the Infant Don
Carlos (for whom romance and tragedy have done what
Sixtus did for San Diego, — bestowed on him a sort


of poetical canonization or apotheosis) had been cured
of a grievous wound through the intercession of this
Diego, whom the friars at Alcala had exalted as a mir-
ror of sanctity ; and Philip, from gratitude, say the
same authors, rested not till he had obtained from Pope
Sixtus his formal canonization : the bull was published
in 1588.

. Eleven or twelve years after the canonization of San
Diego, a certain Spanish gentleman residing at Rome,
Don Enrico Herrera, dedicated, in the Church of San
Giacomo degli Spagnuoli, a chapel to his honor, and
engaged Annibal Caracci to adorn it with the history
of the saint.

This was just after Annibal had finished the frescos
in the Farnese Palace. Worn out by his work, and
broken in spirit by the treatment he had met with, he
retired to a little lodging, near the Quattro Fontane,
and had resolved to undertake nothing more, for some
time at least. The offer of two thousand crowns, and
the persuasions of his scholar Albano, induced him to
yield : he was, however, so ill, that it was with diffi-
culty he could rouse himself to make the necessary
drawings and sketches for the work. Albano nursed
him with the tenderness and solicitude of a son ; aided
him, cheered him ; ran backwards and forwards from
the Quattro Fontane to the Chapel of San Giacomo ;
and painted several of the frescos with great pains and
diligence, as his work was to pass for that of his mas-
ter ; — Annibal every now and then rising from his sick-
bed to retouch or finish the work bejmn bv his affec-
tionate pupil. When the chapel was completed, Don
Enrico refused to pay, alleging that, according to the
agreement, Annibal was to have executed the work
with his own hand ; and was about to cite the painter
before a tribunal. Meantime the applause excited by
the frescos began to mollify Enrico; and it was repre-
sented to him, that, as the whole work was executed
after the designs and under the direction of Annibal, it
might properly be said. to be his. Don Enrico there-



fore, after some murmuring, withdrew his projects of
litigation, and consented to pay the 1600 crowns, the
other 400 having been paid in advance. And now
began between the two painters a contest of a far dif-
ferent kind. Annibal insisted on giving 1200 crowns
to Albano, and keeping only 400 for himself, which he
said overpaid him for the little he had executed, and a
few sorry drawings (Miseri disegni) not worth the money.
Albano, not to be outdone in generosity, absolutely
refused to take anything ; saying, that he was only his
master's creatura and disciple, working under his orders,
and profiting by his instructions. At length they
agreed to submit to the arbitration of Herrera, who
decided that the 1600 crowns should be equally divided
between them : even then it was with the greatest diffi-
culty that Annibal could be persuaded to receive his
share ; and when he did, it was with a certain air of
timidity and bashfulness, — mostrando in ceiio modo
temersene e vergognarsene.

Soon afterwards poor Annibal died ; the figure of
San Diego over the altar being one of his last works.
Albano, I need hardly say, became subsequently one of
the most famous painters of the Bologna school.

I have given this charming anecdote, as related by
Malvasia, because it is in such delightful contrast with
the stories of the mutual jealousies, poisonings, and
stabbings which disgraced that period of Italian art.

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 32 of 41)