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 novice. The prior, astonished at the request from
one so young, and struck by his diminutive person and
delicate appearance, deemed him hardly fit to undertake
the duties and austerities imposed on the Order, but
would not harshly refuse him. " What hast thou stud-
ied, my son ? " he asked, benignly ; the boy replied
modestly that he had studied the Humanities and the
Canon Law. " Well," replied the prior, somewhat
incredulous, "return to thy father's house, my son ; and
when thou hast got by heart the Libro del Decreto, re-
turn hither, and thou shalt have thy wish," — and so
with good words dismissed him, not thinking, perhaps,
to see him again. Antonino, though not gifted with
any extraordinary talents, had an indomitable will, and
was not to be frighted by tasks or tests of any kind from
a resolution over which he had brooded from infancy.


He turned away from the gate of the convent and sought
his home. At the end of a year he appeared again be-
fore the prior : — " Reverend father, I have learned the
book of Decrees by heart ; will you now admit me ? ,;
The good prior, recovering from his astonishment, put
him to the proof, found that he could repeat the whole
book as if he held it in his hand, and therefore, seeing
clearly that it was the will of God that it should be so,
he admitted him into the brotherhood, and sent him to
Cortona to study during the year of his novitiate. At
the end of that period (a. d. 1405), he returned to Fie-
sole and pronounced his vows, being then sixteen. The
remainder of his life showed that his had been a true
vocation. Lowly, charitable, and studious, he was above
all remarkable for the gentle but irresistible power he
exercised over others, and which arose not so much
from any idea entertained of his superior talents and
judgment as from confidence in the simplicity of his
pure unworldly mind and in his perfect truth.

Now in the same convent at Fiesole where Antonino
made his profession there dwelt a young friar about the
same age as himself, whose name was Fra Giovanni,
and who was yet more favored by Heaven ; for to him,
in addition to the virtues of humility, charity, and piety,
was vouchsafed the gift of surpassing genius. He was
a painter : early in life he had dedicated himself and his
beautiful art to the service of God and of His most
blessed saints ; and, that he might be worthy of his high
and holy vocation, he sought to keep himself unspotted
from the world, for he was accustomed to say that
" those who work for Christ must dwell in Christ."
Ever before he commenced a picture which was to be
consecrated to the honor of God, he prepared himself
with fervent prayer and meditation, and then he began,
in humble trust that it would be put into his mind what
he ought to delineate ; and he would never change nor
deviate from the first idea, for, as he said, " that was
the will of God" (cost fusse la volonth di Dio) ; and this
he said, not in presumption, but in faith and simplicity


of heart. So he passed his life in imaging those visions
of beatitude which descended on his fancy, sent indeed
by no fabled Muse, but even by that Spirit " that doth
prefer before all temples the upright heart and pure";
and surely never before nor since was earthly material
worked up into soul, nor earthly forms refined into spirit,
as under the hand of this most pious and most excel-
lent painter. He became sublime by the force of his
own goodness and humility. It was as if paradise had
opened upon him, — a paradise of rest and joy, of purity
and love, where no trouble, no guile, no change could
enter : and if, as it has been said, his celestial creations
s:sm to want power, not the .less do we feel that they
need it not, — that before those ethereal beings power
itself would be powerless : such are his angels, resist-
less in their soft serenity ; such his virgins, pure from
all earthly stain ; such his redeemed spirits gliding into
paradise ; such his sainted martyrs and confessors, ab-
sorbed in devout rapture. Well has he been named II
Beato and Axgelico whose life was " participate with
angels " even in this world !

Now this most excellent and favored Giovanni, and
the good and gentle-hearted Antouino, dwelling together
in their youth within the narrow precincts of their con-
vent, came to know and to love each other well. And
no doubt the contemplative and studious mind of Anto-
nino nourished with spiritual learning the genius of the
painter, while the realization of his own teaching grew
up before him in hues and forms more definite than
words and more harmonious than music ; and when in
after years they parted, and Antonino was sent by his
superiors to various convents, to restore, by his mild
influence, relaxed discipline, — and Angelico by the
same authority to various churches and convents at
Florence, Cortona, Arezzo, Orvieto, to adorn them
with his divine skill, — the two friends never forgot
each other.

Many years passed away, in which each fulfilled his
vocation, walking humbly before God ; when at length


the fame of Angelico having gone forth through all
Italy, the pope called him to Rome to paint for him
there a chapel of wondrous beauty, with the pictured
actions and sufferings of those two blessed martyrs, St.
Stephen and St. Laurence, whose remains repose to-
gether without the walls of Rome ; and while Angelico
was at his work, the pope took pleasure in looking on
and conversing with him, and was filled with reverence
for his pure and holy life, and for his wisdom, which,
indeed, was not of this world.

At this period the Archbishop of Florence died, and
the pope was much troubled to fill his place, for the
times were perilous, and the Florentines were disaffected
to the Church.

One day, conversing with Angelico, and more than
ever struck with his simplicity, his wisdom, and his
goodness, he offered him the dignity of archbishop ; and
great was the surprise of the Holy Father when the
painter entreated that he would choose another, being
himself addicted to his art, and not fit to guide or in-
struct or govern men ; adding, that he knew of one far
more worthy than himself, one of his own brotherhood,
a man who feared God and loved the poor, — learned,
discreet, and faithful : and he named the Frate Anto-
nino, who was then acting in Naples as vicar-general.
When the pope heard that name, it was as if a sudden
light broke through the trouble and darkness of his
mind ; he wondered that he had not thought of him be-
fore, as he was precisely the man best fitted for the office.
Antonino therefore was appointed archbishop of Flor-
ence, to the great joy of the Florentines, for he was
their countryman, and already beloved and honored for
the sanctity and humility of his life : when raised to his
new dignity he became the model of a wise and good
prelate, maintaining peace among his people, and distin-
guished not only by his charity, but his justice and his

He died in 1459, at the age of seventy, having held
the dignity of archbishop thirteeu years, and was buried


in the Convent of St. Mark. Adrian VI. canonized
him, and the bull was published in 1523.

There are, of course, no effigies of St. Antonino in
his character of saint earlier than this date, and, except
at Florence, I do not recollect meeting with any. As,
however, he is the only distinguished canonized prelate
of the Order, it may be presumed that an episcopal
saint introduced into the Dominican pictures, and not
accompanied by any particular attribute, represents St.
Antonino. He is always exhibited as archbishop. In
a characteristic full-length figure the size of life, by
Domenico Ghirlandajo, he wears the pallium as arch-
bishop over his Dominican habit. In his splendid
chapel in the San Marco at Florence, dedicated by the
Salviati, is his statue in white marble, by John of Bo-
logna. The frescos on each side represent the ceremo-
nies which took place on his canonization. In the first,
he is lying in state in the church, surrounded by five
cardinals and nineteen bishops ; in the second, he is
borne to his resting-place in the chapel, in a procession
of prelates, princes, and magistrates. As these frescos
contain portraits from the life of the most distinguished
Florentines then living (about 1590), they have become
invaluable as documents, and are, besides, admirably
painted by Passignano in his best manner, — that is to
say, very like Paul Veronese.

There is also a well-known figure of St. Antonino,
one of the first objects we meet when entering the
Duo mo of Florence by the principal door. He is seated
on a throne, attired in his episcopal robes, and in the
act of blessing the people.

One among the legendary stories of St. Antonino is
frequently represented. During a terrible pestilence
and famine which afflicted Florence in his time there
were two blind men, who were beggars by profession,
and who had amassed in their vocation many hundred
crowns ; yet, in this season of affliction, they not only


i 1 eld their hoards, hut prese :emselves among

s< ught aid from pul harity. The mc-

Antonino fixed his eyes on them, the true state

■ - ; •■ miracle made known to him.

' ■ .' selfish hypocrites,

lie sent to

il, and.. them gener-

ir lives, 1 them per-

ir former ling

• Raymond :;. v

Sj dsh art, lustrio • $ ■

a, nearly allied ft He was

born at talonia, i I

early, an . • •■■ ■•■ rfect

•y his z< boun

r\ to the poor,
.... Ije habit of the Ord ominiel i

the death i foun ... I di \ rted

him the duties it enjoined, — those of prea

in.- .: the poor, and converting ters and here-

; life ho wa 1 General of

Order. 1 id of him, eulogy, that,

■ : _ ,. fissioned by the po • to preach a

aiust the mt of God

ii ■ If with so much \ zeal, and

t! grthrow and

Spain. He died at

B ;i . elonaintl car of his

■ , ind was eajiQJ by Po VIII. in

loOi. His mirai les, perform after his

.,...' d fiftei , 2

ie most celebrated of these, and one which is fre-
quently represented in pictures, being ani ated by
the hull of his canonization, is thus —He was
• to DftQ ■ king of Aragon, called el
Qo ■, a warlike and 'nice after
thi of. prince, — thai is, he was inclined to


serve God and obey his confessor in all things that did
not interfere with his policy or his pleasures. He had,
in fact, but one fault; he was attached to a certaiu
beauty of his court, from whom Raymond in vain
endeavored to detach him. When the king summoned
his confessor to attend him to Majorca, the saint refused
unless the lady were left behind : the king affected to
yield, — but soon after their arrival in Majorca, Ray-
mond discovered that the lady was also there in the

: nise of a page : he remonstrated : the king grew
ansrry ; Raymond intimated his resolution to withdraw

» tin ; the king forbade any vessel to leave the
I it death to any person to convey him
from the island. The result is thus gravely related :
» S id, full of confidence in God, said to his

earthly king has deprived us of the
, but a heavenly King will supply them ! '
— then, w diking up to a rock which projected into the
d his cloak on the waters, and, setting his
I tying one corner to it for a sail, he
made tl .. " of the cross, and boldly embarked in this
new kind of vessel. He was wafted over the surface
of the ocean with such rapidity that in six hours he
reached Barcelona." This stupendous miracle might
perhaps have been doubted if five hundred credible
witnesses had not seen the saint land on the quay at
Barcelona, take up his cloak, which was not even wetted
by the waves, throw it round him, and retire modestly
to his cell, more like an humble penitent than one iti
whose favor Heaven had so wonderfully wrought. It
ie pleasant to know that Don Jayme afterwards re-
pented, and governed his kingdom (and his conduct)
by the advice of Raymond till the death of the saint.

Devotional effigies of St. Raymond are found in the
Dominican churches and convents, and are in general
productions of the Spanish and Bologna schools about
the period of his canonization (1601). He wears the
habit of his Order ; in the background, the sea, over


which he is gliding on his hlack mantle. The repre-
sentation of the miracle as an historical subject is fre-
quent : the best is that of Luclovico Caracci in the San
Domenico at Bologna ; it exhibits the saint kneeling
on his black mantle, looking up to heaven with a devout
and confiding expression, and thus borne over the

Sir Edmund Head, in the " Handbook of the Spanish
and French scbools," mentions a scries of six pictures
from the life of Ilaymoud painted by Pacheco for the
Merced at Seville, — but does not say what are the sub-
jects chosen.

It appears to me that there is some confusion here,
and also in Mr. Stirling's "Artists of Spain " (p. 318),
between this St. Raymond of Penaforte, the Dominican,
and St. Raymond Nonnatus of the Order of Mercy,
who died in 1240, after having been created a cardinal
by Gregory IX.

Another Spanish Dominican who figures in art is
St. Vincent Ferraris. He was born at Valencia
in Spain, in 1357, of virtuous and religious parents,
who stinted themselves of necessary things to provide
for his education and that of his brother Boniface. He
took the habit of the Order of St. Dominick in his
eighteenth year ; and became one of the greatest preach-
ers and missionaries of that Order. There was scarce
a province or a town in Europe that he did not visit :
he preached in France, Italy, Spain, and, by the express
invitation of Henry IV., in England.

From the descriptions we have of this saint, it ap-
pears that he produced his effect by appealing to the
passions and feelings of his congregation. The ordi-
nary subjects of his sermons were sin, death, the judg-
ments of God, hell, and eternity ; delivered, says his
eulogist, with so much energy, that he filled the most
insensible with terror. Like another Boanerges he
preached in a voice of thunder ; his hearers often fainted
away, and he was obliged to pause till the tears, sobs,


and sighs of his congregation had a little subsided : he
possessed himself what has been called an extraordinary
gift of tears ; and, take him altogether, this saint ap-
pears to be a Koman Catholic Whitfield. It is said
that he performed many miracles, and that preaching
in his own tongue he was understood by men of differ-
ent nations : Greeks, Germans, Sardinians, Hungarians,
and others, declared that they understood every word
he uttered, though he preached in Latin, or in the
Spanish dialect as spoken at Valencia. The last two
years of his life were spent in Brittany and Normandy,
then desolated by the English invasion ; there he was
seized with his last illness, and died in Vannes, at the
age of 62. Jeanne de France, duchess of Brittany,
washed his body and prepared it for the grave with
her own hands. He was canonized by Calixtus III.
in 1455.

The proper attribute of this saint is the crucifix, held
aloft in his hand as preacher and missionary. In allu-
sion to the fervor and inspiration which characterized
his discourses, he is sometimes represented with wings
to his shoulders ; likening him, in his character of a
preacher of the Gospel, to the Evangelists, being, like
them, a messenger of good tidings : but I am not sure
that this attribute has been sanctioned by ecclesiastical
authority ; and, at all events, these large emblematical
wings, in conjunction with the Dominican habit, have
a strange uncouth effect.

The finest existing picture of him is that of Fra
Bartolomeo, painted for his convent of San Marco at
Florence : it represents the saint addressing his congrega-
tion from the pulpit, one hand extended in exhortation,
the other pointing to heaven. There can be no doubt
that the head was painted from some known portrait ;
and the impressive fervor of the countenance and man-
ner must have been characteristic, as well as the feat-
ures. It is, in fact, as fine as possible, in its way.
Here he has no wings ; but in the picture by Murillo,
painted a hundred and fifty years later, and which I saw


in the Aguado Gallery some years ago, he has the large
symbolical wings. I do not know where this picture
now is.

St. Hyacinth, though an early saint, is found only
in very late pictures.

At the time that St. Dominick was at Rome, in 1218,
Ivo, bishop of Cracow, and chancellor of Poland, ar-
rived there on a mission from his government to the
Holy See. In his train were his two nephews, Hyacinth
and Ceslas. Ivo, moved by the preaching of St. Domi-
nick, and the success which attended his mission, re-
quested of him to send some of the brethren of his Order
to preach the Gospel in his distant and half-barbarous
diocese. Dominick excused himself, having otherwise
disposed of all his disciples. This circumstance made a
deep impression upon Hyacinth, the eldest of the bish-
op's nephews, of whom we are now to speak. He was
born of the noble family of the Aldrovanski, one of the
most illustrious in Silesia, had recently completed his
studies at Bologna, and was distinguished by his virtue,
talents, piety, and modesty, and by the prudence and
capacity with which he managed the secular affairs of
life without allowing them to interfere with his religious
duties. He was struck by the preachiug of St. Domi-
nick, and by the recollection of the barbarism, the
heathenism, the ignorance which prevailed in many
parts of his native country ; he offered himself as a
missionary, and, with his cousin Ceslas, he took the
habit of the Order of St. Dominick, and pronounced
his vows in the Church of St. Sabina at Rome, in 1218.

The event showed that it was in no transient fit of
enthusiasm that he took this resolution. From that
time he devoted himself to the preaching of the Gospel
in the wild unsettled countries of the North ; he pene-
trated to the shores of the Black Sea, he preached
amongst the Tartars, the Russians, the Sclavonians ;
thence travelling towards the North, he preached
amongst the Danes, the Swedes, the Norwegians,



and in other countries round the Baltic : it is said
that he left no region un visited, from the borders of
Scotland to China. If we consider in what a condition
these countries still were in the thirteenth century, his
missionary services can only be compared to some which
have distinguished these later days.

Hyacinth had to traverse uninhabited wilds, uncleared
forests still infested with wild beasts, hordes of barba-
rians to whom the voice of the Gospel had never
reached ; — on foot, without arms, and thinly clad,
without money, without an interpreter, often without a
guide, and trusting only in the cause of truth and in
Divine Providence. Thus forty years of his life were
spent. Worn out by fatigue, he had merely strength to
return to his cell in the monastery of his Order which
he had founded at Cracow, and died there on the 15th
of August, 1257. He was canonized by Clement VIIL,
more than three hundred years after his death, in 1594.
Anne of Austria, wife of Lewis XIII., carried into
France her hereditary veneration for St. Hyacinth. At
her request, Ladislaus, king of Poland, sent her some
relics of the saint, which she placed in the Dominican
convent at Paris, and he became an object of the popu-
lar veneration. This, I presume, is the reason why so
many pictures of St. Hyacinth are found in the churches
of Paris even to this day.

The effigies of St. Hyacinth represent him in the habit
of his Order, bearing the crucifix as preacher, and fre-
quently the pix containing the Host (Le Saint Ciboire).
It is related of him, that when his convent at Kiov in
Russia was sacked by the Tartars he escaped, carrying
with him the pix and the image of the Virgin, which
he had snatched up from the altaj. On arriving at the
banks of the Dniester he found it swollen to a raffing
torrent : the barbarians were behind him ; and, resolved
that the sacred objects he bore should not fall into the
hands of the pagans, after recommending himself to
Heaven he flung himself into the stream : the waters


miraculously sustained him, and he walked over their
surface as if it had been dry land. This is the incident
of his life which is usually represented in his pictures,
and great care must be taken not to confound him with
St. Raymond.

Another of his miracles was the resuscitation of a
drowned youth, who had remained lifeless for twenty-
four hours.

All the pictures I have met with of this saint have
been painted since the date of his canonization, and are
found in the Dominican convents : —

By Leandro Bassano : St. Hyacinth passing the river
Dniester with the Ciborio and the image of the Virgin.

By L. Caracci : The apparition of the Virgin and
Child to St. Hyacinth. An angel holds a tablet, on
which are inscribed the words which the Virgin ad-
dresses to him : — "Be at peace, O Hyacinth ! for thy
prayers are agreeable to my Son, and all that thou shalt
ask of him through me shall be granted." (Felsina
Pittrice, vol. i. p. 292, edit. 1841.) Painted for the
Capella Turini in Bologna, but carried off by the French,
and never restored. There is an interesting account of
this picture in Malvasia. When Guido first saw it he
stood silent, and then exclaimed that " it was enough
to make a painter despair and throw away his pencils ! "
How different from the modest Correggio's "ancli' io
sono pittore " ! The sight of excellence makes the vain
man — not the great man — despair.

By Malosso of Cremona : St. Hyacinth preaches to
a multitude, and converts the heathen by curing the bite
of a scorpion which lies at his feet. Painted for the
Church of the Dominicans at Cremona.

Bv Brizzio : St. Hyacinth restores a drowned youth
(I'Annegato). A very fine dramatic picture, in the
Church of St. Dominick at Bologna.

In the modern decorations of " Notre Dame de Lo-


rette " at Paris, we find in two large frescos the two
famous miracles of St. Hyacinth. The first represents
the restoration of the drowned youth : in the other he
is on the point of crossing the Dniester.

St. Louis Beltrax, or Bertraxd, a native of
Valencia, and a celebrated Dominican preacher and
missionary in the sixteenth century. He believed him-
self called by God to spread the light of the Gospel
through the Xew World, and embarked for Peru, where
he spent several years. It was not, says his biographer,
from the blindness of the heathens, but from the cruelty,
avarice, and profligacy of the Christians, that he en-
countered the -greatest obstacles to his success. After
a vain attempt to remedy these disorders, he returned
to Spain, died at Valencia, and was canonized by Clem-
ent X. in 1671. He was a friend of St. Theresa, and
seems to have been a sincere and energetic man as well
as an exemplary priest.

Pictures of this saint abound in the Dominican
churches in Spain, and particularly in the Valencian
school. I do not know that he is distinguished by any
particular attribute : he would wear, of course, the habit
of his Order, and carry the crucifix as preacher ; Peru-
vian scenery or Peruvian converts in the background
would fix the identity.

In the year 1647 (the year in which he was declared
a Bcato), the plague broke out at Valencia, and the
painter Espinosa placed himself and his family under
the guardianship of San Louis Beltran, who preserved,
by his intercession, the whole family. Espinosa, in
gratitude, vowed to his protector a series of pictures,
which he placed, in 1655, in the chapel of the saint in
the convent of San Domingo at Valencia. They are
said to be in " a masterly style " ; but the subjects are
not mentioned.

There is a picture of him in the Church of S. Maria-


sopra-Minerva at Rome, under his Italian appellation,
San Ludovico Bertrando.

Santa Rosa di Lima, I believe the only canonized
female saiut of the New World, was born at Lima in
Peru, in 1586. " This flower of sanctity, whose fra-
grance has filled the whole Christian world, is the
patroness of America, the St. Theresa of Transatlantic

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 37 of 41)