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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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beautiful face, and holding a lily in his hand. The
bas-relief in white marble, by the French sculptor Pierre
le Gros, over the altar of the chapel of St. Louis in the
" Sant' Ignazio " at Rome, is perhaps the best devo-
tional representation of this young saint : he is ascend-
ing into heaven, borne by angels. It is, however, in
the mean, fantastic taste of the time.

There is a striking picture by Pietro da Cortona, rep-
resenting all the Jesuit-saints combined into a Sagra
Conversazione. On one side stands St. Ignatius hold-
ing the volume of the rule of his Order; on the other
side St. Francis Xavier, holding the lily ; in front St.
Francis Borgia kneels, holding a skull on a book ; be-
hind St. Ignatius stand the two young saints, St. Louis
and St. Stanislas ; and behind St. Francis Xavier, the
missionary-martyrs of Japan, holding their palms.
There is a good print after this composition in the
British Museum.

The Jesuits have no female saint.



The Order of the Visitation of St. Mary.

This congregation of Nuns was instituted in 1610 to
receive those women who, by reason of their infirmities
of body or mind, their extreme poverty, previous errors
of life, or a state of widowhood, were excluded from
the other regular communities.

The joint founders of this modern Order were St.
Francis de Sales, bishop of Geneva, and St. Jeanne
Francoise de Chantal, two saints of great and
general interest for their personal character and influ-
ence, but popular rather than important as subjects of
art.



486 LEGENDS OF THE MONASTIC ORDERS.

St. Francis de Sales, of a noble family of
Savoy, was born near Annecy in 1567. His mother,
who had reared him with difficulty, and loved him
■with inexpressible tenderness, had early dedicated
him in her heart to God, and it is recorded that
the first words he uttered distinctly were " Dieu et
ma mere m'aiment bien I " and to the last moment
of his life, love, in its Scriptural sense of a tender,
all-embracing charity, was the element in which he
existed.

He was Bishop of Geneva from 1602 to 1622, and
most worthily discharged all the duties of his position.
He is celebrated for his devotional writings, which are
almost as much admired by Protestants as by Catholics
for their eloquence and Christian spirit : he is yet more
interesting for his benign and tolerant character ; his
zeal, so tempered by gentleness. The learned Cardinal
du Perron, famous as a controversialist, once said, " If
you would have the heretics convinced, bring them to
me ; if vou would have them converted, send them to
the Bishop of Geneva." The distinction here drawn,
and the feeling expressed, seem to me alike honorable
to the speaker.

By the unco guid of his own time and faith, St.
Francis de Sales was blamed for two things especially.
In the first place, he had, in his famous book, the " In-
troduction to a Devout Life," permitted dancing as a
recreation. Even his eulogists think it necessary to
explain and excuse this relaxation from strict disci-
pline ; — and a fanatic friar of his own diocese had the
insolence, after preaching against him, to burn his book
in the face of the congregation : the mild bishop did
not even remonstrate.

The second subject of reproach against him was, his
too great gentleness to sinners who came to him for
comfort and advice. The most lost and depraved of
these he would address in words of encouragement :
" All I ask of you is, not to despair ! y ' To those who
remonstrated against this excess of mercy, he contented



STE. JEANNE-FRANCOISE DE CIIANTAL. 487

himself with replying, " Had Saul been rejected, should
we have had St/Paul ? "

This good prelate died suddenly in 1622, and was
canonized by Alexander VII. in 1665. Bossuet, Bour-
daloue, and Flechier enshrined him in their elocment
homage.

Portraits and devotional prints and pictures of St.
Francis de Sales were formerly very popular in France.
In the churches of the convents of the Visitation, and
in the churches of the Minimes, they were commonly
met with. The Minimes have enrolled him in their
own Order, in consequence of his extreme veneration,
for their patriarch St. Francis de Paula ; but if he is
to be included in any Order, I believe it should be that
of the Augustines, as a regular canon or priest.

He was so remarkable for the beauty of his person,
and the angelic expression of his regular and delicate
features, that painting could hardly idealize him. He
is represented in the episcopal cope, generally bare-
headed ; and in prints the usual attribute is a heart
pierced and crowned with thorns, and surmounted by
a cross placed within a glory of light.

The finest devotional figure of him I have ever seen
is in the large picture, by Carlo Maratta, in the Church
of the FUippini (Oratorians) at Forli.

Ste. Jeaxxe-Fraxcoise de Chaxtal, the latest
of the canonized saints who is of any general interest,
was the grandmother of Madame de Sevigne' ; and
some people will probably regard her as more inter-
esting in that relationship than even as a canonized
saint.

Mademoiselle de Fremiot, for that was her maiden
and secular name, was even as a child remarkable for
her religious enthusiasm. One day a Calvinist gen-
tleman who visited her parents, presented her with
some bons-bons. She immediately flung them into
the fire, saying, as she fixed her eyes upon him,



488 LEGENDS OF THE MONASTIC ORDERS.

" Voila, monsieur, comment les here'tiques bruleron
clans l'enfer ! "

She did not, however, grow up a cruel fanatic,
though she remained a devout enthusiast. She mar-
ried, in obedience to her parents, the Baron de Chantal ;
at the same time making a secret vow, that if ever she
were left a widow she would retire from the world and
dedicate herself to a religious life.

Her husband died when she was in her twenty-ninth
year, and for the next ten years of her life she was
sedulously employed in the care and education of her
four children ; still preparing herself for the fulfilment
of her vow.

In the year 1610 she assisted St. Francis de Sales in
the institution of the Order of the Visitation. Having
arranged the future destinies of her children, and mar-
ried her son advantageously to Mademoiselle de Cou-
langes, she prepared to renounce all intercourse with
the world, and to assume the direction of the new
Order, as " la Mere Chantal." Her children, who
seemed to have loved her passionately, opposed her
resolution. On the day on which she was to withdraw
from her home, her son, the father of Madame de
Sevigne, threw himself on the ground before the thresh-
old of her door. She paused for a moment and burst
into tears ; then stepping over him, went on, and the
sacrifice was consummated.

Before her death, Madame de Chantal counted
seventy-five houses of her Order in France and Savoy ;
and, from its non-exclusive spirit, this community
became useful as well as popular. When St. Vincent
de Paul instituted the Hospice de la Madeleine, as a
refuge for poor erring women, he placed it under the
superintendence of the Sisters of the Visitation, called
in France " Sa'urs de Sainte-Marie."

La Mere Francoise died in 1641, and was canonized
by Clement XIV. (Ganganelli) in 1769. Madame de
Sevigne did not live to see her "sainte Grande-Mmnan "
receive the honors of beatification ;. but, from various



STE. JEANNE-FRANCOISE BE CHANTAL. 489

passages of her letters, she appears to have regarded
her with deep veneration, and to have cherished for her
sake " une espece de fraternite he're'ditaire avec les
Sceurs de Ste. -Marie, qu'elle ne manquait point de
visiter partout oil elle allait."

Long before her canonization, pictures and prints
of La Mere de Chantal as foundress of her commu-
nity were commonly met with ; the only subject from
her life represents her receiving from the hands of
St. Francis de Sales the Eule of the Order of the Vis-
itation.




Cambridge : Printed by Welch, Bigelow, & Co.



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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 41 of 41)