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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Spain." (Stirling's Artists of Spain, p. 1006.) She
was distinguished, in the first place, by her austerities.
" Her usual food was an herb bitter as wormwood.
"When compelled by her mother to wear a wreath of
roses, she so adjusted it on her brow that it became a
crown of thorns. Rejecting a host of suitors she de-
stroyed the lovely complexion to which she owed her
name, by an application of pepper and quicklime. But
she was also a noble example of filial devotion, and
maintained her once wealthy parents, fallen on evil
flays, by the labor of her hands." All day she toiled
in a garden, and at night she worked with her needle.
She took the habit of the Third Order of St. Dora i nick,
and died in 1617. She was canonized by Clement X.
According to the Peruvian legend, the pope, when
entreated to canonize her, absolutely refused, exclaim-
ing " India y santa ! asi como Uueven rosas!" (India
and saint ! as likely as that it should rain roses !) ;
whereupon a miraculous shower of rosee began to fall
in the Vatican, and ceased not till the incredulous pon-
tiff acknowledged himself convinced.

The best pictures of this saint are by the late Spanish
painters. One by Murillo, which has been engraved,
represents her crowned with thorns, and holding in her
hand full-blown roses, on which rests the fignre of the
Infant Saviour.

A large picture of St. Rosa di Lima, with the Iufant
Saviour, on which is inscribed the name of Marill
in the collection of Mr. Bankes, ar Kingston Hall


With this Transatlantic saint we conclude the notices
of the Dominican Order, as illustrated in Art.

The Carmelites.
Ital. I Caraini. Fr. Les Carmes.

Neither as an Order, nor individually, are the
Carmelites interesting or important in their relation
to art.

They pretend, as I have already observed, to a very
high antiquity, claiming as patriarch and founder the
prophet Elijah, " who dwelt solitary in the midst of
Carmel : " he gave example to many devout anchorites,
of whom an uninterrupted succession from the days of
Elijah inhabited Mount Carmel, and early embraced
the Christian faith ; and this community of the Her-
mits of Mount Carmel continued till the thirteenth
century. They built a monastery near the fountain
of Helias (Elijah), and an oratory dedicated to the
Virgin, thence called " Our Lady of Mount Carmel "
("La Madonna del Carmine") : but, as yet, they had
no written rule ; wherefore, by the advice of one of
their number, Berthold by name, they desired of Albert,
patriarch of Jerusalem, that he would give them a rule
of discipline. He prescribed to them a form taken from
the rule of St. Basil, but more severe; and a party-
colored mantle of white and red stripes, — for such,
according to an ancient tradition, was the miracle-
working mantle of Elijah the prophet, the mantle
famed in Holy Writ. When, however, the Carmelites
arrived in the west, and Pope Honorius III. was induced
to confirm the Rule of the Order, he altered the color
of the mantle, and appointed that it should be white,
and worn over a dark-brown tunic. Hence, in Eng-
land, the Carmelites were called White Friars. They
were introduced into this country direct from Palestine,
by Sir John de Vcsci on his return from the Holy
Wars. He settled them near his castle at Alnwick,



and they became subsequently more numerous and pop-
ular here than in any other country of Europe before
the time of St. Theresa. The third General of their
Order was an English Carmelite, St. Simon Stock,
who introduced an alteration in the habit, the scapulary,
the long narrow strip of cloth hanging down to the feet,
of the same color as the tunic : this, in pictures, dis-
tinguishes the Carmelites from the Premonstratensians,
who also wear the brown tunic and white cloak, but
no scapulary.

The Carmelites chose for the protectress of their
Order the Virgin Mary ; and Honorius III. commanded
that they should be styled " The Family of the Most
Blessed Virgin." Hence, in all the convents of the
Carmelites, the Virgin, under her title of the " Madonna
del Carmine," holds such a conspicuous place. She is
frequently exhibited standing with her white mantle
outspread, while her " Family " — the friars and nuns
of the Order — are gathered beneath its protecting folds ;
and among them St. Albert as bishop, St. Angelus the
Martyr, and, in late pictures, St. Theresa of Spain, are
generally distinguished above the rest.

The rosary, having been instituted in especial honor
of the Virgin, also found favor with the Carmelites,
and sometimes the Virgin is represented as presenting
a rosary to a Carmelite saint.

Next in importance to the Virgin, we find, in the
Carmelite churches, Elijah the prophet, as patriarch of
the Order, or the Scriptural stories of his life. He is
fed by ravens in the wilderness ; or he is sacrificing on
Mount Carmel before the priests of Baal ; or he is
carried up to heaven in the chariot of fire. Thus a
whole series of subjects from the life of Elijah decorates
the cloisters of the Carmini at Florence ; and on enter-
ing the Carmini at Venice the first objects which strike
us are the statues in white marble, of Elijah and Elisha.

Next after the Virgin and Elijah, we shall generally
find conspicuous —



St. Albert, bishop of Vercelli, and patriarch of
Jerusalem, regarded by historians as the real founder
of the Carmelite Order. He wears the episcopal robes,
and carries the palm as martyr ; for it is recorded in
his Life, that being summoned from Palestine by Inno-
cent III. to attend a council in the Lateran, as he was
preparing to embark he was assassinated at Acre by a
wretch whom he had reproved for his crimes.*

In the cathedral at Cremona they preserve a singu-
lar ancient vessel ornamented at the four corners with
winged monsters, and apparently of the ninth or tenth
century, in which, according to tradition, St. Albert
kneaded bread for the poor.

St. Axgelus the Carmelite, bearing the palm as
martyr, is found in late pictures only. According to
the apocryphal legend, this St. Angelus came from the
East about the year 1217, landed in Sicily, and preached
at Paler mo and Messina. He was assassinated by a
certain Count Berenger, a powerful lord of that coun-
try, who for several years had lived openly in unhal-
lowed union with his own sister. St. Angelo rebuked
him severely, as John the Baptist had formerly rebuked
Herod, and found the same recompense. By command
of Berenger he was hung upon a tree and shot with ar-
rows : at least his martyrdom is thus represented in a
disagreeable picture by Ludovico Caracci, where St,
Angelo is hanging from a tree with his white and brown
habit fluttering against the blue sky; — the city of Paler-
mo, very like the city of Bologna, being seen in the

Another picture by the same painter represents the

* We must not confound St. Albert the Carmelite with St.
Albert Cardinal and Bishop of Liege. It is this last St. Albert
who, as patron saint of the Archduke Albert, figures in Rubens's
fine picture of St. Ildefonso ; but, except in this single instance, I
have not met with him. He may probably be found in Flemish
prints of the seventeenth century, as a compliment to the Arch-
duke whose wife, the celebrated Clara-Eugenia, made St. Clara
fashionable in her time.



supposed meeting of St. Angelo, St. Francis, and St.
Dominick ; or, as it is expressed in Italian, " San Fran-
cesco e San Domenico che complimentano affettuosamente con
Sant' Angelo Carmelitano."

Both these pictures were painted for the Carmelites
at Bologna, and are in the Academy there.*

I have seen prints and pictures of St. Angelo in which
red and white roses are falling from his mouth, symbols
of his eloquence ; and I remember one in which two
graceful angels are picking up the roses as they fall.

In the year 1668 the learned authors of the Acta
Sanctorum (known as the Bollandists) not only threw
discredit on the whole legend of St. Angelo, but treated
as chimerical the supposed origin and high antiquity
of the Carmelites as an Order. Thereupon arose a
most bitter contest. The Carmelites were loud and
angry in refutation and expostulation. From the time
of St. Theresa they had had so much influence in Spain,
that they procured the condemnation of the obnoxious
volumes by the Spanish Inquisition. The Bollandists
who belonged to the Society of Jesuits appealed to the
pope against this judgment ; and the dispute ran so high
between the Carmelites and Jesuits, and caused such
general scandal, that Innocent XII. published a brief,
commanding the two parties to keep silence on the sub-
ject from that time, forever.

It was during this contest, that is, about the middle
of the seventeenth century, that we find the churches of
the Carmelites filled with pictures, in general very bad
ones, which were intended as an assertion of their claims
to superior sanctity as well as superior antiquity ; —
pictures of Elijah, as their patriarch ; of St. Albert, as
their lawgiver ; of St. Angelo, as their martyr ; of St.
Simon Stock, receiving the scapulary from the hands

* They were formerly styled subjects from the life of San Pier
Toma, another Carmelite friar, who lived in the fourteenth century,
who was not a martyr, and was never formally canonized. He
was, however, a real personage, while the very existence of St.
Angelo has been called in question.


of the Virgin ; and, particularly, of their great saint, the
" Serujica Madre Teresa," of whom we are now to speak.

St. Theresa.

Ital. Santa Teresa, Fondatrice dei Scalzi. Fr. Sainte Therese de
Jesus des Carmes-Dechausses. Sp. La Xuestra Serafica Madre
Santa Teresa de Gesu. Patroness of Spain. Oct. 17, 1582.

" Scarce has she learnt to lisp the name
Of martyr, yet she thinks it shame
Life should so long play with that breath
Which, spent, could buy so brave a death.
She never undertook to show
What death with love should have to doe ;
Yet, though she cannot tell you why,
She can love, and she can die 5
And has a heart dares hope to prove
How much less strong is death than love ! "
(From Crashaw's Hymn "In memory of the virtuous

and learned ladye Madre de Teresa, that sought an

early martyrdom.")

St. Theresa, even setting aside her character as
saint and patroness, was an extraordinary woman, —
without doubt the most extraordinary woman of her
age and country; which, perhaps, is not saying much, as
that country was Spain, and she lived in the sixteenth
century. But she would have been a remarkable woman
in any age and country. Under no circumstances
could her path through life have been the highway of
commonplace mediocrity; under no circumstances could
the stream of her existence have held its course un-
troubled ; for nature had given her great gifts, large
faculties of all kinds for good and evil, a fervid tempera-
ment, a most poetical and " shaping power" of imagina-
tion, a strong will, singular elocmenee, an extraordinary
power over the minds and feelings of others, — genius,
in short, with all its terrible and glorious privileges.
Yet what was she to do with these energies, — this ge-
nius ? In Spain, in the sixteenth century, what work-



ing sphere existed for such a spirit lodged in a woman's
form ? Mr. Ford calls her a " love-sick nun " ; in some
respects the epithet may be deserved, — but there have
been, I am afraid, some thousands of love-sick nuns :
there have been few women like St. Theresa. It is
impossible to consider in a just and philosophic spirit
either her character or her historv without feeling that
what was strong, and beautiful, and true, and earnest,
and holy, was in herself; and what was morbid, misera-
ble, and mistaken, was the result of the influences
around her.

Theresa d'Avila was born at Avila in Castile on the
28th of March, 1515, one of twelve children. -Her fa-
ther, Don Alfonso Sanchez de Cepeda, was a nobleman
of distinguished character, exceedingly pious. Her
mother, Beatrix, appears to have been in all respects
an admirable woman ; her only fault was, that she was
a little too much given to reading romances and books
of chivalry. Between the piety of the father and the
romance of the mother was the character of Theresa
formed in her childhood, and these early impressions
influenced her through life. Amongst her brothers was
one whom she distinguished by particular affection : she
tells us that they read together the lives of the saints
and the holy martyrs, until they were filled with the
most passionate desire of obtaining for themselves the
crown of martyrdom ; and when they wei*e children of
eight or nine years old, they set off on a begging expedi-
tion into the country of the Moors, in hopes of being
taken by the infidels and sacrificed for their faith. She
adds that, when she and her little brother were study-
ing the lives of the saints, what most impressed their
minds was, to read, at every page, that the penalties
of the damned are to be forever, and the glory of the
blessed also forever. They tried to conceive the idea
of eternity, and they repeated, looking in each other's
faces, awe-struck, "What! forever! forever!" and the
idea filled them both with a vague terror. As they had


been disappointed in their hope of obtaining martyrdom
amongst the Moors, they resolved to turn hermits ; but
in this also they were prevented. However, she tells
us that she gave all her pocket-money in alms ; and if
she played with other children of her age, they were
always nuns and friars, walking in mimic processions,
and singing hymns. Theresa lost her mother at the age
of twelve, a loss to her irreparable : what her destinies
might have been, had this parent lived, it is in vain to
speculate. The few years which follow exhibit her as
passing from one extreme to another. The love of pleas-
ure, the love of dress, self-love and the pride of position,
the desire to be loved, to be admired, — all the passious
and feelings, in short, natural to a young girl of her
age, endowed with very extraordinary faculties of all
kinds, made her impatient of restraint. The influence
of some worldly-minded relations, and, above all, the
increasing taste for poetry and romance, conspired to
diminish in her mind the pious influences which had
been sown there in her early youth. In fact, at the
ao-e of sixteen, there seems to have remained no settled
principle in her mind but that thoroughly feminine
principle of womanly dignity. Her father, however,
seems to have been aware of the dangers to which she
was exposed, and placed her in a convent, with orders
that she should be kept for a time in strict seclusion.

In a girl of a different character this would have been
a perilous experiment. With Theresa her enthusiastic
and ardent nature took at once the turn towards religion.
Something whispered to her that she could be safe
nowhere but within the walls of a cloister : she abhorred
the idea of a marriage which had been proposed to her,
but she equally abhorred the idea of seclusion. In the
midst of these internal struggles she fell dangerously
ill. A feeling of the vanity and insecurity of all earthly
things grew upon her mind ; and after another struggle,
which ended in another fit of illuess, she took to read-
ing the epistles of St. Jerome, and this decided her
vocation. She obtained the permission of her father


to take the vows ; but, passionate in all her affections,
the separation from her family had nearly cost her her
life. She was twenty when she entered the convent of
the Carmelites at Avila. After she had pronounced
her vows, her mind became more settled ; not, however,
her health, which for manv vears seems to have been in
a most precarious state. She tells us that she passed
nearly twenty years without feeling that repose for
which she had hoped when she sacrificed the world.
She draws a striking picture of her condition at this
time. " On one side I was called as it were by God,
on the other side I was tempted by regrets for the
world. I wished to combine my aspirations towards
heaven with my earthly sympathies, and I found that
this was impossible ; I fell, — I rose, but it was only
to fall again ; I had neither the calm satisfaction of a
soul reconciled with God, nor could I taste those pleas-
ures which were offered by the world. I tried to think,
and could not think ; disgust and weariness of life seized
upon me ; and in the midst of pious meditations and
prayers, nay, in the midst of the services of the Church,
I was impatient till the bell rang and relieved me from
duties to which I could give but half my heart. But
at length God took pity upon me : I read the Confes-
sions of St. Augustine ; I saw how he had been tempt-
ed, how he had been tried, and at length how he had
conquered." This seems to have been the turning-
point in her life. She threw herself with more confi-
dence upon the resources of prayer, and at length her
enthusiastic and restless spirit found peace. When her
mind was too distracted or too weak for the exaltation
of religious thought, instead of tormenting herself with
vain reproach and penance, she sought and found relief
and a fresh excitement to piety in the practice of works
of charity : she labored with her hands : she tried to
fix her thoughts upon others ; and nothing is more
striking; in the historv of this remarkable woman than
the real piety, simplicity, modesty, and good sense
which every now and then break forth in the midst of


her visionary excitement, her egotism, her pretensions
to superior sanctity and peculiar revelations from
heaven : — the first were native to her character, the
latter fostered and flattered by the ecclesiastics around


It was in the year 1561 that she conceived the idea
of reforming the Order of the Carmelites, into which
several disorders had crept. Most of the nuns in her
monastery entered into her views : many of the inhabi-
tants of her native town, over whom she had gradually
acquired a strong influence, assisted her with money.
In 1562 she laid the foundation of the new monastery
at Avila. She dedicated it to St. Joseph, the spouse
of the Virgin, to whom she had early vowed a particu-
lar devotion, and whom she had chosen for her patron
saint. It is perhaps for this reason, as well as in his
relation to the Virgin, that we find St. Joseph a popular
subject in the Carmelite churches, and particularly in
those dedicated to St. Theresa. She had many diffi-
culties, many obstacles to contend with. She entered
the little convent she had been enabled to build with
eight nuns only ; but in the course of twenty years she
had not only reformed the female members of her
Order, but had introduced more strict obligations into
the convents of the men. It was her principle that the
convents of the Carmelites under her new rule should
either have no worldly possessions whatever, and liter-
ally exist upon the charity of others, or that they
should be so endowed as not to require any external
aid. This was a principle from which her spiritual
directors obliged her to depart : such, however, was
her success, that at the period of her death she had
already founded seventeen convents for women and
fifteen for men. During the later yeai's of her life, her
enthusiastic and energetic mind found ample occupa-
tion. She was continually travelling from one convent
to another, called from province to province to promul-
gate her new regulations for the jroverument of her
Order. She had to endure much opposition and per-


secution from the Friars ; and a schism took place
which obliged Gregory XV. to interfere and to divide
the Carmelites into two different congregations, placing
Theresa at the head of that styled the "Barefooted
Carmelites " : in Italy, Scalzi, the unshod ; and some-
times Padri Teresiani.

Besides compiling exhortations and treatises for the
use of her nuns, she wrote, at the express command of
her spiritual directors, a history of her. own life; and
left behind her some mystical compositions, singularly
poetical and eloquent, even judging from the French
translation. Crashawe thus alludes to her writings : —

" 0, 't is not Spanish, but 't is Heaven she speaks i "

Sometimes, indeed, the language has the orientalism
of the Canticles ; and in this instance, as in others, may
it not be possible that fervor of temperament was mis-
taken for spiritual aspiration 1 Theresa, in the midst
of all her terrors of sin, could find nothing worse to say
of Satan himself than " Poor wretch ! he loves not ! ' :
and her idea of hell was that of a place whence love is
banished. It appears to me that she was right in both
instances : is not hate, as a state of being, another word
for hell ? and does not the incapacity of love, with con-
scious intellect, stamp the arch-fiend ? But I am
writing a book on art, not on morals or religion ; else
there would be something more to be said of the works
of Theresa. To return, therefore, to my subject, and
conclude the life of our saint. She had never, since
the terrible maladies of her youth, entirely recovered
the use of her limbs, and increasing years brought
increasing infirmities. In 1582 she was seized with
her last illness, in the palace of the Duchess of Alva.
She refused, however, to remain there, and was carried
back to her convent of San Jose. She died a few days
afterwards, repeating the verse of the Miserere, " A
broken and a contrite heart, Lord, thou icilt not despise I "
She was canonized in 1621 by Gregory XV., and was
declared by Philip III. the second patron saint of the


Spanish monarchy after Santiago ; a decree solemnly
confirmed by the Spanish Cortes in 1812.

Her shrine is at Avila, in the church of her convent.
" Her statue sanctifies the portal. The chapel is a very
holy place, and frequented by pilgrims, — in smaller
numbers, however, than heretofore. The nuns never
presume to sit on the seats of the choir, but only on
the steps, because the former were occupied by the
angels whenever St. Theresa attended mass." (I must
observe that the angels are always supposed to assist
invisibly at mass.)

There is so much in St. Theresa's life and character
eminently picturesque, that I must regret that, as a
subject of art, she has been — not neglected, but, in all
senses of the word, ill-treated.

The authentic portraits of her which exist in Spain,
and which were all taken in the later years of her life,
after she had become celebrated, and also corpulent and
infirm, represent her person large, and her features
heavy, — in some pictures even coarse. In the devo-
tional figures she is generally kneeling at prayer, while
an angel hovers near, piercing her heart with a flame-
tipped arrow to express the fervor of Divine love with
which she was auimated. All the Spanish pictures of
her sin in this respect ; but the grossest example, — the
most offensive, — is the marble group of Bernini, in the
Santa Maria della Vittoria at Rome. The head of St.
Theresa is that of a languishing nymph ; the angel is a
sort of Eros ; the whole has been significantly described
as a "parody of Divine love." The vehicle, white
marble, — its place in a Christian church, — enhance
all its vileness. The least destructive, the least prudish
in matters of art, would here willingly thi'ow the first

Other representations of St. Theresa exhibit her
looking up in rapture at the holy dove, which expresses
the claim to direct inspiration made for her, — never by


her. And sometimes she holds a heart with the name
of Jesus, the I.H.S., engraved on it : as in a figure, by
Bramantino, which, like all the other Italian figures
of St. Theresa, is wholly uncharacteristic.

" An excellent work of Ribalta adorns the saloon
of the Valencian Academy of San Carlos. It repre-
sents St. Theresa seated at table and writing from the
dictation of the Holy Spirit, hovering at her ear in the
likeness of a snow-white dove : her countenance beam-
ing with heavenly light." (Artists of Spain).

The finest picture I have seen of St. Theresa is by
Rubens, painted for the " Petits Carmes " at Antwerp,
and now in the Musee of that city. It represents the

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 38 of 41)