St. Jerome and the Lion

St. Jerome

St. Jerome pulling a thorn from the lion’s foot, Niccolò Antonio Colantonio, ca. 1450, Museo di Capodimonte, Naples

 

Today is the feast of St. Jerome (AD 347-420), doctor and father of the church (click on his name for a biography) and patron saint of librarians. One of the stories from his life is his encounter with a lion at the monastery in Bethlehem. The other monks ran away in fear, but Jerome realized that the lion was in pain so he calmly removed a thorn from the beast’s foot and the lion became his devoted companion. There’s a bit of irony here since Jerome was known for his irascible temper! Because of this legend, Jerome is often depicted with a lion, as in the painting above by Neapolitan painter, Niccolò Antonio Colantonio, about whom very little is known. In this charming image, we see Jerome in the act of extracting the thorn. The setting is a scholar’s study, reflecting Jerome’s occupation as a scholarly translator, writer, and theologian. It is thought that Colantonio was influenced by the Flemish master, Jan van Eyck, who visited Naples about this time and whose image of St. Jerome we see below, a painting which may have been started by the great master and finished by his workshop after his death.

St. Jerome in His Study, Workshop of Jan van Eyck, 1442, Detroit Institute of Arts

St. Jerome in His Study, Workshop of Jan van Eyck, 1442, Detroit Institute of Arts

In Colantonio’s work, Jerome has set aside his Cardinal’s hat for a scholar’s cap and the lion is sized more accurately than the van Eyck painting. But we see the Netherlandish influence in the details of the homely objects in the messy study and the attempted perspective of the tilted desk and table.

We also see this image of Jerome and the lion in this small bronze sculpture, attributed to Bartolomeo Bellano of Padua in the late 15th century.

St. Jerome and the Lion, Bartolomeo Bellano, late 15th c., Louvre, Paris

St. Jerome and the Lion, Bartolomeo Bellano, late 15th c., Louvre, Paris

From the Louvre website:

A compact sculptural group

This compact group is composed around a pyramid structure. At the saint’s feet can be seen a book, recalling his extensive writings on the Bible, and a cardinal’s hat, an allusion to his traditional role as one of the Christian church’s Latin Fathers (his highest official ecclesiastical rank was in fact a spell as secretary to Pope St Damasus I). The lion’s mane shows it to be a mature animal, albeit represented here as the size of a small dog. Man and beast gaze intently at one another. The modeling of Jerome’s simple robes, clearly made from coarse, heavy fabric, reinforces the direct, humane character of the group.

Bartolomeo Bellano: a sculptor of the Paduan school

The group is attributed to Bartolomeo Bellano, a Paduan sculptor who was a pupil and successor of Donatello (the creator of the celebrated bronze high altar in the church of San Antonio in Padua, known as the Santo). The attribution to Bellano is based on stylistic comparisons with reliefs executed for his monument to Pietro Roccabonella (1491-94, in the church of San Francesco in Padua). The reliefs are still in situ, but the monument was completed by Andrea Riccio in 1498, after Bellano’s death, and has not survived in its original form. Vasari notes that Bellano created a number of small-scale works in marble and bronze for Pope Paul II. The present group may well be one of these.

Feast of the Archangels

Michael Tramples Satan, Guido Reni, 1636, Santa Maria della Concezione church, Rome. A mosaic of the same painting decorates St. Michael's Altar in St. Peter's Basilica.

The beautiful vision of Reni! Michael Tramples Satan, Guido Reni, 1636, Santa Maria della Concezione church, Rome. A mosaic of the same painting decorates St. Michael’s Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica.

War broke out in heaven;
Michael and his angels battled against the dragon.
The dragon and its angels fought back,
but they did not prevail
and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
The huge dragon, the ancient serpent,
who is called the Devil and Satan,
who deceived the whole world,
was thrown down to earth,
and its angels were thrown down with it.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed.
For the accuser of our brothers is cast out,
who accuses them before our God day and night.
They conquered him by the Blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
love for life did not deter them from death.
Therefore, rejoice, you heavens,
and you who dwell in them.”

Revelation 12:7-12

In Catholic writings and traditions, St. Michael the Archangel acts as the defender of the Church and chief opponent of Satan. He also assists souls at the hour of death, as we see here in the central panel from one of my favorite works of all time, The Beaune Altarpiece (c. 1445–50), often called The Last Judgement, a large polyptych altarpiece by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden.

The Last Judgement (detail), Rogier van der Weyden, 1445-50

The Last Judgement (detail), Rogier van der Weyden, 1445-50

 

Here’s a prayer to St. Michael the Archangel written by Pope Leo XIII in 1884:
St. Michael the Archangel, 
defend us in the day of Battle; 
Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. 
May God rebuke Him, we humbly pray, 
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, 
by the power of God, cast into Hell, 
Satan and all the other evil spirits, 
who prowl through the world, 
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Flemish), The Fall of the Rebel Angels, 1562, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels.

A phantasmagoric vision by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Flemish), The Fall of the Rebel Angels, 1562, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels.

 

Saint Michael expelling Lucifer and the Rebellious Angels‎, Peter Paul Rubens, 1622, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Love me some Rubens! Saint Michael expelling Lucifer and the Rebellious Angels‎, Peter Paul Rubens, 1622, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid

 

Here’s a link to an informative article about the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.

 

 

The Little Children

An argument arose among the disciples
about which of them was the greatest. 
Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child
and placed it by his side and said to them,
“Whoever receives this child in my name receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
For the one who is least among all of you
is the one who is the greatest.”

Then John said in reply, 
“Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name 
and we tried to prevent him
because he does not follow in our company.”
Jesus said to him, 
“Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”

Luke 9:46-50

 

If you Google “Jesus with children”, the image results are mostly sappy, poor quality illustrations that cannot be called art.

wpid-screenshot_2015-09-28-06-51-41.png

Mostly bad art

 

But googling Pope Francis with children provides an array of joyful photographs! So, no art today, just these:

 

The living Gospel!

The living Gospel!

 

Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!

Moses Elects the 70 Elders, Jacob de Wit, 1737, Royal Palace of Amsterdam

Moses Elects the 70 Elders, Jacob de Wit, 1737,
Royal Palace of Amsterdam

The LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses.

Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses,
the LORD bestowed it on the seventy elders;
and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.

Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad,
were not in the gathering but had been left in the camp.
They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent;
yet the spirit came to rest on them also,
and they prophesied in the camp.
So, when a young man quickly told Moses,
“Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp, “
Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses’aide, said,
“Moses, my lord, stop them.”
But Moses answered him,
“Are you jealous for my sake?
Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!
Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!”

Numbers 11:25-29

From the Google Cultural Institute:

“This vast painting by Jacob de Wit fills the entire wall. Moses stands in the centre, surrounded by the 70 elders he has selected. Behind Moses and off to one side, screened by a tent flap, is the Ark of the Covenant containing the Ten Commandments engraved on tablets of stone. In the top left-hand corner, a group of clouds indicates the presence of God.
Moses was told by God to select 70 elders to receive some of the Holy Spirit conferred on him and to share with him the burden of ruling the people of Israel. The story illustrates the task of the 36 members of the council who met in the Council Chamber (Vroedschapskamer). Like the elders in the Bible story, they helped run the city by advising the four burgomasters.
De Wit made this painting between November 1735 and October 1737 in response to a commission from the city fathers. There is a preparatory study for the work in the Amsterdam Municipal Archives.”

 

Drawing by Jacob de Wit of his painting.

Drawing by Jacob de Wit of his painting.

 

We are long beyond the Golden Age of Dutch Painting (16th-17th centuries–think Rembrandt, Rubens) with this work, and Jacob de Wit would be unlikely to make any list of great Dutch painters. Nevertheless, this painting fits our reading today and has its own charms.

If you click on the first image to enlarge it and look at the small grouping between two palm trees near the top right, you see the face of a dark-haired man staring out at you. This is almost certainly a self-portrait of the artist himself. Interestingly, and perhaps further confirmation that it’s a self-portrait, this image is not included in his preparatory drawing of the painting.

The Joy of the Shepherd

Pope Francis, our Shepherd

Pope Francis, our Shepherd!

The Lord will guard us as a shepherd guards his flock.
Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
proclaim it on distant isles, and say:
He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together,
he guards them as a shepherd guards his flock.
R. The Lord will guard us as a shepherd guards his flock.
The LORD shall ransom Jacob,
he shall redeem him from the hand of his conqueror.
Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion,
they shall come streaming to the LORD’s blessings.
R. The Lord will guard us as a shepherd guards his flock.
Then the virgins shall make merry and dance,
and young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will console and gladden them after their sorrows.
R. The Lord will guard us as a shepherd guards his flock.

Jeremiah 31:10-13

Pope_blessing_child

Give thanks to God for our joyful and loving Pope Francis, the shepherd of his flock!

Who Do You Say That I Am?

wpid-image-12.jpeg

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude,
and the disciples were with him,
he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah;
still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’”
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”
He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone.

He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”

Luke 9:18-22

 

Herod’s Palace-Fortress at Machaerus

Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening,
and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying,
“John has been raised from the dead”;
others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”;
still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”
But Herod said, “John I beheaded.
Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”
And he kept trying to see him.

Luke 9:7-9

According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the palace at Machaerus was the site at which John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod Antipas in 32 AD. It was built by Herod the Great, whose son was Herod Antipas the Tetrarch who ruled from 4 BC to 29 AD.

wpid-machaerus2.jpg

 

The palace was constructed atop a great promontory overlooking the Dead Sea and surrounded by deep ravines and a fortress wall, 100 meters long and 60 meters wide with three corner towers, each sixty cubits (90 ft) high.

 

wpid-apaame2.jpg

Within the fortress, excavators have revealed the Herodian palace, which includes a large courtyard and an elaborate bath, with fragments of the mosaic floors still remaining. An aqueduct and cisterns provided water for the inhabitants.

machaerus

The fortress was destroyed down to the foundations by the Romans in 72 AD after Jewish rebels occupied it. Twentieth century archaeologists have done a partial reconstruction of it and re-erected several columns.

wpid-417-770591.jpg