Lat. Sanctus Dominicua, Pater Ordinis Predicatorura. Hal. San Domenico. San Domenico Calaroga. Fr. Saint Dominique, Fondateur dea Frerea Precheura. Sp. San Domingo. August 4, 1221.
Is the days when Alexander III. was pope, and Frederic Barbarossa emperor of Germany, Don Alphonso IX. then reigning in Castile, Dominick was born at Calaruga, in the diocese of Osma, in the kingdom of Castile. His father was of the illustrious family of Guzman. His mother, Joanna d’Aza, was also of noble birth. His appearance in the world was attended by the usual miracles. Before he was born, his mother dreamed that she had brought forth a black and white dog carrying in his mouth a lighted torch. When his godmother held him in her arms at the font, she beheld a star of wonderful splendor descend from heaven and settle on his brow. Both these portents clearly denoted that the saint was destined to be a light to the universe. Moreover, such was his early predilection for a life of penance, that when he was only six or seven years old he would get out of his bed to lie on the cold earth. His parents sent him to study theology in the university of Valencia, and he assumed the habit of a canon of St. Augustine at a very early age. Many stories are related of his youthful piety, his self-inflicted austerities, and his charity. One day he met a poor woman weeping bitterly; and when he inquired the cause, she told him that her only brother, her sole stay and support in the world, had been carried into captivity by the Moors. Dominick could not ransom her brother; he had given away all his money, and even sold his books, to relieve the poor; but he offered all he could, — he offered up himself to be exchanged as a slave in place of her brother. The woman, astonished at such a proposal, fell upon her knees before him. She refused his offer, hut she spread the fame of the young priest far and wide.
Dominick was about thirty when he accompanied Diego, bishop of Osma, on a mission to France. Diego was sent there by King Alphonso to negotiate a marriage between his son, Prince Ferdinand, and the daughter and heiress of the Count de la Marche. They had to pass through Languedoc, where, at that time, the opinions of the Albigenses were in the ascendant, and Dominick was scandalized by these heretical “reveries.” Their host at Toulouse being of this persuasion, Dominick spent the whole night in preaching to him and his familv. Such was the effect of his arguments, that the ncxt morning they made a public recantation. This incident fixed the vocation of the future saint, and suggested the first idea of a community of preachers for the conversion of heretics.
The marriage being happily arranged, Dominick soon afterwards made a second journey to France with his bishop, accompanying the ambassadors who were to conduct the young princess to Spain. They arrived just in time to see her carried to her grave; and the sudden shock appears to have left a deep and dark im pression on the mind of Dominick. If ever he had indulged in views and hopes of high ecclesiastical preferment, to which his noble birth, his learning, his already high reputation appeared to open the way, such promptings of an ambitious and energetic spirit were from this time extinguished, or rather concentrated into a Hume of religious zeal.
On a journey which he made to Rome in 1207, he obtained the pope’s permission to preach in the Vaudois to the Albigenses. At that time the whole of the South of France was distracted by the feuds between the Catholics and the heretics. As yet, however, there was no open war, and the pope was satisfied with sending missionaries into Languedoc. Dominick, armed with the papal brief, hastened thither; he drew up a short exposition of faith, and with this in his band he undertook to dispute against the leaders of the Albigenses. On one occasion, finding them deaf to his arguments, he threw his book into the flames, and, wonderful to relate! it leaped three times from the fire, and remained uninjured, — while the books which contained the doctrines of the heretics were utterly consumed! By this extraordinary miracle many were convinced; but others, through some strange blindness, refused to believe either in Dominick or his miracles.
Then began that terrible civil and religious war, unexampled in the annals of Europe for its ferocity.
What share Dominick may have had in arming the crusade against the miserable Albigenses is not ascertained. His defenders allege that he was struck with horror by the excesses of barbarity then committed in the name and under the banners of the religion of Christ. They assert positively that Dominick himself never delivered over the heretics to the secular power, and refused to use any weapons against them but those of argument and peru-vasion. But it remains an historical fact, that at the battle of Muret, where twenty thousand of the Albigenses were massacred by the troops of Simon de Montfort, Dominick was kneeling on an eminence, — some say in a neighboring chapel,’— with his crucifix in his hand, praying that the Church might prevail: he has been compared to Moses holding up the rod of the Lord while the captains of Israel slew their enemies with the edge of the sword, “sparing not the women nor the little ones.” That Dominick, however mistaken, was as perfectly convinced as ever Moses was of the righteousness of his cause and of the Divine protection, I see no room to doubt: the man was a fanatic, not a hypocrite.
About this time he united with himself several ecclesiastics, who went about barefoot in the habit of penitents, exhorting the people to conform to the Church. The institution of the Order of St. Dominick sprang out of this association of preachers, but it was not united under an especial rule, nor confirmed, till some years later, — by Pope Honorius in 1216.
It was during his sojourn in Languedoc that St. * Dominick instituted the Rosary. The use of a chaplet of beads, as a memento of the number of prayers recited, is of Eastern origin, and dates from the time of the Egyptian Anchorites. Beads were also used by the Benedictines, and are to this day in use among the Mohammedan devotees. Dominick invented a novel arrangement of the chaplet, and dedicated it to the honor and glory of the Blessed Virgin, for whom he entertained a most especial veneration. A complete rosary consists of fifteen large and one hundred and fifty small beads; the former representing the number of Pater-nosters, the latter the number of Ave-Marins. In the legends of the Madonna I shall have much to say of the artistic treatment of the ” mysteries of the rosary “: meantime, with reference to St. Dominick, it will be sufficient to observe that the rosary was received with the utmost enthusiasm, and by this simple expedient Dominick did more to excite the devotion of the lower orders, especially of the women, and made more converts, than by all his orthodoxy, learning, arguments, and eloquence.
In 1218, St. Dominick having been charged by the pope with the care of reforming the female convents at Rome, persuaded them to accept of a new Rule which he drew up for them : and thus was instituted the Order of the Dominican Nuns. The institution of the ” Third Order of Penitence” followed soon after, but it never was so popular as the Third Order of St. Francis.
From this time we find Dominick busily employed in all the principal cities of Europe, founding convents. He was in Spain in the beginning of 1219; afterwards at Paris, where, by permission of Blanche of Castile, mother of St. Louis, he founded the magnificent convent of his Order in the Rue St. Jacques, from which the Dominicans in France obtained the general name of Jacobins. At Paris, meeting Alexander II. king of Scotland, he at the earnest request of that prince sent some of his brotherhood into Scotland, whence they • spread over the rest of Great Britain.
From Paris he returned to Italy, and took up his residence in the principal convent of his Order at Bologna, making occasional journeys to superintend the more distant communities. Wherever he travelled he fulfilled what he had adopted as the primary duty of his institution. He preached wherever he stopped, though it were only to repose for an hour: everywhere his sermons were listened to with eagerness. When at Bologna he preached not only every day, but several times in the day, to different congregations. Fatigue, excitement, and the extreme heat of the season brought on a raging fever, of which he died in that city on the 6th of August, 1221. He was buried in a modest tomb in a small chapel belonging to his Order; but on bis canonization by Gregory IX., in 1233, his remains were translated to the splendid shrine in which they now repose.
The adornment of the “Area di San Domenieo” (Bologna)—for so this wonderful tomb is styled in Italy — was begun as early as 1225, when Niccolo Pisano was summoned to Bologna to design the new church of the Dominicans, and the model of the shrine which was to be placed within it. The upper range of basreliefs, containing scenes from the life of the saint, by Niccolo and his school, dates from 1225 to about 1300. The lower range, by Alfonso Lombardi, was added about 1525, in a richer, less refined, but still most admirable style.
We come now to the various representations of this famous saint; and, first, it will be interesting to compare the innumerable effigies which exist of him with the description of his person left by a contemporary, Suor Cecilia, one of his Roman disciples. The accuracy of the portrait has been generally admitted : —
“In stature he was of moderate size; his features regular and handsome; his complexion fair, with a slight color in his cheek; his hair and beard inclining to red, and in general he kept his beard close shaven. His eyes were blue, brilliant, and penetrating; his hands were long, and remarkable for their beauty; the tones of his voice sweet, and at the same time powerful and sonorous. He was always placid, and even cheerful, except when moved to compassion.” The writer adds, that “those who looked on him earnestly were aware of a certain radiance on his brow; a kind of light almost supernatural.” It is possible that the attribute of the star placed on his brow or over his head may be derived from this traditional portrait, and, as in other instances, the legend of the godmother and the star afterwards invented to account for it.
The devotional figures of St. Dominick always represent him in his proper habit, — the white tunic, white scapulary, and long black cloak with a hood. In one hand he hears the lily; in the other a book. A star is on his forehead, or just above his head. The dog with the flaming torch in his mouth is the attribute peculiar to him. Every 01 e who has been at Florence will remember his statue, with the dog at his side, over the portal of the Convent of St. Mark. But in pictures the dog is frequently omitted, whereas the lily and the star have become almost indispensable.
It is related in one of the Dominican legends, that a true portrait of St. Dominick was brought down from heaven hy St. Catherine and Mary Magdalene, and presented to a convent of Dominican nuns.
There is a head of St. Dominick in Angelico’s “Coronation of the Virgin,” in the Louvre. There is, certainly, nothing of the inquisitor or the persecutor in this placid and rather self-complacent head; rather, I should say, some indication of that self-indulgence with which the heretics reproached this austere saint. In other heads hy Angelico we have an expression of calm, resolute will, which is probably very characteristic; as in the standing figure in an altar-piece now in the Pitti Palace, and many others. In the pictures by Fra Bartolomeo, St. Dominick has rather a mild full face. In no good picture that 1 have seen is the expression given to St. Dominick severe, or even ascetic. In
the Spanish pictures the head is often coarse, with a black beard and tonsure: altogether false in character and person.
A very ancient and interesting figure of St. Dominick, formerly in the Church of St. Catherine of Siena at Pisa, is now in the Academy there. It was painted for a certain “Signore di Casa Cascia,” by Francesco Traini. The character of the head agrees exactly with the portrait drawn by Suor Cecilia. “// vollo trct il severo e il piacevofe; i capelli rossiccie, tagliati a guisa di corona; biirba rata.” He holds a lily in his right hand, in the left an open book on which is inscribed ” Venite filii, attdite me, timorem Domini docebo vos.” The hands very small and slender. Around this figure are eight small subjects from his life.
Besides the devotional figures, in which he stands alone, or grouped with St. Peter Martyr or St. Catherine of Siena near the throne of the Virgin, there are some representations of St. Dominick which are partly devotional, partly mystical, with a touch of the dramatic. For example, where he stands in a commanding attitude, holding the keys of St. Peter, as in a fresco in the S. Maria-sopra-Mincrva (Rome); or where the Infant Christ delivers to him the keys in presence of other saints, as in the altar-piece of Orcagna in the Strozzi chapel (Florence): and in the innumerable pictures which relate to the institution of the rosary; which, as a subject of art, first became popular after the victory of Lepanto in 1571 Gregory XIII. instituted the Festival of the Rosary to be held in everlasting commemoration of that triumph over the infidels. From this period we find perpetual Madonnas ” del Rosario “; and St. Dominick receiving the rosary from the hand of the Virgin, or distributing rosaries, became a common subject in the Dominican cburches.
The most famous exampie is by Domenichino (Bologna Acad.), a large, splendid picture; but the intention of the artist in some of the groups does not seem clear. The Madonna del Rosario is seated above in glory; in her lap the Divine Infant; both scatter roses on the earth from a vase sustained by three lovely cherubs. At the feet of the Virgin kneels St. Dominick, holding in one hand the rosary; with the other be points to the Virgin, indicating by what means she is to he propitiated. Angels holding the symbols of the “Mysteries of the Rosary” (the joys and sorrows of the Virgin) surround the celestial personages. On the earth, below, are various groups, expressing the ages, conditions, calamities, and nccessities of human life :—lovely children playing with a crown; virgins attacked by a fierce warrior, representing oppressed maidenhood; a man and his consort, representing the pains and cares of marriage, &c. And all these with rosaries in their hands are supposed to obtain aid, “per intercession* dell’ Sacratissimo Rosurio.” I confess that this interpretation appeared to me quite unsatisfactory when I looked at the picture, which, however, is one blaze of beauty in form, expression, and transcendent coloring. — ” Mai si videro puttini e piu cari e amoroxi; mai vergineUe piii vat|he e spiritose; mai uomini piu Jim, piu gram, piu maestosi!” I remember once hearing a Polish lady recite some verses in her native language, with the sweetest voice, the most varied emphasis, the most graceful gestures imaginable; and the feeling with which I looked and listened, — at once baffled, puzzled, and enchanted, — was like the feeling with which I contemplated this masterpiece of Domenichino.
A series of subjects, more or less numerous, from the life of St. Dominick, may commonly be met with in the Dominican edifices.
The most memorable examples are —
1. The bas-reliefs on the four sides of his tomb or shrine, by Niccolo Pisano and Alfonso Lombardi. (Bologna.)
2. The set of six small and most beautiful compositions by Angelico, on the predella of the ” Coronation of the Virgin.” (Louvre.)
3. The set of eight subjects round the figure by Traini, already mentioned. (Pisa.)
I shall here enumerate, in their order, all the scenes and incidents I have found represented, either as a scries or separately : —
1 The dream of the mother of St. Dominick. Giovanna d’Aza is asleep on her couch, and before her appears the dog holding the torch. In front, two women are occupied washing and swaddling the infant saint.
2. The dream of Pope Innocent III. (exactly similar to his Vision of St. Francis). He dreams that the Church is falling to ruin, and that Dominick sustains it.
3. When St. Dominick was at Rome, praying in the church of St. Peter that the grace of God might be upon his newly-founded Order, he beheld in a vision the blessed apostles, Peter and Paul. Peter presented to him a staff, and Paul a volume of the Gospel, and they said to him, ” Go, preach the Word of God, for He hath chosen thee for that ministry.” Of this subject, the bas-relief by Niccolo Pisano is as fine as possible.
4. The burning of the heretical books. The book of St. Dominick is seen leaping from the fire. In the picture by Angelico, the Albigenses are dressed as Turks; the good painter could form no other idea of heretics and infidels. The grand dramatic fresco by Lionello Spada, in the chapel at Bologna, should be compared, or rather contrasted, with the simplo elegance of Angelico. »
5. On Ash WedneHay in 1218, the abbess and some of her nuns went to the new monastery of St. Sixtus at Rome, to take possession of it; and, being in the chapter-house with St. Dominick and Cardinal Stephano di Fossa-Nova, suddenly there came in one, tearing his hair, and making great outcries, tor the young Lord Napoleon, nephew of the cardinal, had been thrown from his horse and killed on the spot. The cardinal fell speechless into the arms of St. Dominick, and the women and others who were present were filled with grief and horror. They brought the body of the youth into the chapter-house, and laid it before the altar; and Dominick, having prayed, turned to the body of the young man, saying, “0 adalaeau Xapoleo! in nomine Domini noetri J. C. libi dico surge!” and thereupon he arose sound and whole, to the unspeakable wonder of all present.
This is a subject frequently repeated. The bas-relief by Niccolo, the little picture by Angelico, and the fresco by Mastelletta, should be compared. In the first two, the saint and the dead youth fix the attention; in the last, it is the furibondo cavallo which makes us start.
6. The supper of St. Dominick. “It happened that when he was residing with forty of his friars iu the convent of St. Sabina at Rome, the brothers who had been sent to beg for provisions had returned with a very small quantity of bread, and they knew not what they should do, for night was at hand, and they had not eaten all day. Then St. Dominick ordered that they should seat themselves in the refectory, and taking his place at the head of the table, he pronounced the usual blessing: and behold! two beautiful youths clad in white and shining garments appeared amongst them; one carried a basket of bread, and the other a pitcher of wine, which they distributed to the brethren: then they disappeared, and no one knew how they had come in, nor how they had gone out. And the brethren sat in amazement; but St. Dominick stretched fbrth his hand, and said calmly, ‘My children, eat what God hath sent you’; and it was triffv celestial food, such as they had never tasted before nor since.”
The treatment of this subject in the little picture by Angelica is perfectly exquisite. The friars, with their hoods drawn over their heads, are seated at a long table; in the centre is St. Dominick, with his hands joined in prayer. In front, two beautiful ethereal angels seem to glide along, distributing from the folds of their drapery the ” bread from paradise.”
7. The English pilgrims. When Simon de Montfort besieged Toulouse, forty pilgrims on their way from England to Compostella, not choosing to enter the heretical city, got into a little boat to cross the Garonne. The boat is overset by a storm, but the pilgrims are saved by the prayers of St. Dominick.
This subject is often mistaken; I have seen it called, in Italian, “la Burrasca dpi Mare.” In the series by Traini it is extremely fine’ some of the pilgrims are struggling in the water; others, in a transport of gratitude, are kissing the hands and garments of the saint.
8. He restores to life a dead child. The great fresco of this subject in the chapel “dell’ Area” at Bologna is by Tiarini, and a perfect masterpiece in the scenic and dramatic style; so admirably got up, that we feel as if assisting, in the French sense of the word, in a side-box of a theatre. To understand the scene, we must remember that St. Dominick, being invited to the funeral banquet, ordered the viands to be removed, and the child to be placed on the table instead; the father, with outstretched arms, about to throw himself at the feet of the saint, —- the mother, with her eyes fixed on her reviving child, seeming only to live in his returning life,—are as fine and as animated as possible. It is Rubens, with Italian grace and Venetian color.
9. “Pope Honorius III. confirms the Order of St. Dominick,” often met with in the Dominican convents. There is a fine large picture of this subject in the sacristy of St. John and St. Paul at Venice, painted by Tintoretto with his usual vigor. The small sketch is, I think, in the collection of the Duke of Sutherland.
10. St. Dominick, in the excess of his charity and devotion, was accustomed, while preaching in Languedoe, to scourge himself three times a day ; — once for his own sins; once for the sins of others; and once for the benefit of souls in purgatory. There is a small, but very striking, picture of this subject by Carlo Dolce. (P. Pitti.) Dominick, with bared shoulders, kneels in a cavern; the scourge in his hand; on one side, the
souls of sinners liberated by his prayers, are ascending from the flames of purgatory; far in the background is seen the death of Peter Martyr.
11. The death of the saint. In the early pictures of this subject we often find inscribed the words of St. Dominick, “Caritatem habete; humilitatem servate, paupertatem voluntariam possidete.”
12. Fra Guala, prior of a convent at Brescia, has a vision, in which he beholds two ladders let down from heaven by the Saviour and the Virgin. On these two angels ascend, bearing between them a throne, on which the soul of St. Dominick is withdrawn into paradise.
13. The solemn translation of the body of St. Dominick to the chapel of San Domenico in Bologna; in the series by Traini.
14. The apotheosis of the saint. He is welcomed into heaven by our Saviour, the Virgin, and a choir of rejoicing angels, who hymn his praise. Painted by Guido with admirable effect on the dome of the chapel at Bologna.
We must now turn from St. Dominick to bis far more stern disciple —
St. Peter Martyr.
St. Peter the Dominican. Hal. San Pietro (or San Pier) Martire. Fr. Saint Pierre le Dominican), Martyr April 28, 1252.
This saint, with whom the title of Martyr has passed by general consent into a surname, is, next to their great patriarch, the glory of the Dominican Order. There are few pictures dedicated in their churches in which we do not find him conspicuous, with his dark physiognomy and bis bleeding head.
He was born at Verona about the year 1205. His parents and relatives belonged to the heretical sect of the Cathari, prevalent at that time in the North of Italy Peter, however, was sent to a Catholic school, where he learned the creed according to the Catholic form, and for repeating it was beaten on his return home. St. Dominick, when preaching at Verona, found in this young man an apt disciple, and prevailed on him to take the Dominican habit at the age of fifteen. He became subsequently an influential preacher, and remarkable for the intolerant zeal and unrelenting cruelty with which he pursued those heretics with whom he had formerly been connected. For these services to the Church he was appointed Inquisitor-General by Pope Honorius III. At length two noblemen of the Venetian states, whom he had delivered up to the secular authorities, and who had suffered imprisonment and confiscation of property, resolved on taking a summary and sanguinary vengeance. They hired assassins to waylay Peter on his return from Como to Milan, and posted them at the entrance of a wood through which he was obliged to pass, attended by a lay brother. On his appearance, one of the assassins rushed upon him and struck him down by a blow from an axe; they then pursued and stabbed his companion: returning, they found that Peter had made an effort to rise on his knees, and was reciting the Apostles’ Creed, or, as others relate, was in the act of writing it on the ground with his blood. He had traced the word “Credo,” when the assassins coming up completed their work by piercing him through with a sword. He was canonized in 1253 by Innocent IV.; and his shrinc, in the Sant’ Eustorgio at Milan, by Balduecio of Pisa, is one of the most important works of the fourteenth century.
In spite of his celebrity in art, his fame and his sanctity, the whole story and character of this man are painful to contemplate. It appears that in his lifetime he was not beloved by his own brotherhood, and his severe persecuting spirit made him generally detested. Yet, since his death, the influence of the Dominican Order Jias rendered him one of the most popular saints in Italy. There is not a Dominican church in Romagna, Tuscany, Bologna, or the Milanese which does not contain effigies of him; and, in general, pictures of the scene of his martyrdom abound.
In the devotional figures he wears the habit of his Order, and carries the palm as martyr, and the crucifix as preacher; the palm, if not in his hand, is placed at his feet. He is otherwise distinguished from St. Dominick by his black beard and tonsure; St. Dominick being of a fair and delicate complexion: but his peculiar attribute — where he stands as martyr — is the gash in his head with the blood trickling from it; or the sabre or axe struck into his head; or he is pierced through with a sword, which is less usual.
1 will now mention a few examples : —
1. By Guercino (Milan Gal.): — St. Peter M., kneeling with the sabre at his feet.
2. By Bevilacqua (Milan Gal.): — He presents a votary to the Madonna: on the other side is Job, the patriarch of patience, holding a scroll on which is inscribed, “Fruet Te De Morte et Bello de Mauu Gladii.”
3. By Angelico (5″l. Gal.): —He stands on one side of the throne of the Madouna pierced through with a sword ; with a keen, ascetic, rather than stern and resolute, expression.
The finest, the most characteristic, head of St. Peter Martyr I have ever seen is in a group by Andrea del Sarto (P. Pitti), where he stands opposite to St. Augustine, “in aria e in otto fieramente terribile,” as Vasari most truly describes him; and never, certainly, were fervor, energy, indomitable resolution, more perfectly expressed. I have mentioned in another place the significant grouping of the personages in this wonderful picture.
The assassination —or, as it is styled, the “martyrdom “— of St. Peter occurs very frequently, and seldom varies in the general points of treatment. The two assassins, the principal of whom is called in the legend Cariuo; the saint felled to the earth, his head wounded and bleeding, his hand attempting to trace the word “Credo”;—these, with the forest background, constitute the elements of the composition.
We have an example of the proper Italian treatment in a small picture, by Giorgione, in our National Gallery, which is extremely animated and picturesque. But the most renowned of all, and among the most celebrated pictures in the world, is the ” San Pietro Martire ” of Titian; painted as an altar-piece for the chapel of the saint, in the church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo (which the Venetians abbreviate and harmonize into San Zanipolo), belonging to the Dominicans. (Venice.) The dramatic effect of this picture is beyond all praise; the death-like pallor in the face of San Pietro, the extremity of cowardice and terror in that of his flying companion, the ferocity of the murderers, the gloomy forest, the trees bending and waving in the tempest, and the break of calm blue sky high above, from which the two cherubim issue with their palms, render this the most perfect scenic picture in the world.
It is a mistake to represent St. Peter Martyr assassinated on the steps of an altar or within a church, as in some Spanish pictures.
I must mention another most interesting work which relates to St. Peter Martyr. Fra Bartolomeo has introduced him into most of the large pictures painted for his Order, and has given him the usual type of head; but in one picture he has represented him with the features of his friend Jerome Savonarola, that eloquent friar who denounced with earnest and religious zeal the profane taste which even then had begun to infect the productions of art, and ended by entirely depraving both art and artists. After the horrible fate of Savonarola, strangled and then burned in the great square at Florence, in 1498, Bartolomeo, who had been his disciple, shut himself up in his cell in San Marco, and did not for four years resume his pencil. He afterwards painted the head of his friend, in the character of Peter Martyr, with a deep gash in his skull, and the blood trickling from it, — probably to indicate his veneration for a man who had been his spiritual director, and who by his disciples was regarded as a martyr; and /fever the Dominicans regain their former influence, who knows but that we may have this resolute adversary of the popes and princes of his time canonized as another “St. Jerome “?
St. Thomas Aquinas.
Hal. San Tomaso di Aquino, Dottore Angelico. March 7,1274.
St. Thomas Aquinas, as a theologian one of the great lights of the Roman Catholic Church, was of the illustrious family of the Counts of Aquino, in Calabria. His grandfather had married the sister of the Emperor Frederic I.: be was, consequently, grand-nephew of that prince, and kinsman to the emperors Henry VI. and Frederic II. His father Landolfo Count of Aquino, was also Lord of Loretto and Belcastro, and at this latter place St. Thomas was horn in the year 1226. He was remarkable in his infancy for the extreme sweetness and serenity of his temper, a virtue which, in the midst of the polemical disputes in which he was afterwards engaged, never forsook him. He was first sent to the Benedictine school at Monte Casino, but when he was ten years old his masters found they could teach him no more. When at home, the magnificence in which his father lived excited rather his humility than his pride: always gentle, thoughtful, habitually silent, piety with him seemed a true vocation. The Countess Theodora, his mother, apprehensive of the dangers to which her son would be exposed in a public school, was desirous that he should have a tutor at home: to this his father would not consent, but sent him to finish his studies at the University of Naples. Here, though surrounded by temptations, the warnings and advice of his mother so far acted as a safeguard, that his modesty and piety were not less remarkable than his assiduity in his studies. At the age of seven
teen he received the habit of St. Dominick in the convent of the Order at Naples. The Countess Theodora hastened thither to prevent his taking the final vows: feeling that he could not resist her tenderness, he took flight, and, on his way to Paris, was waylaid near Acquapendente, by his two brothers Landolfo and Rinaldo, officers in the emperor’s army. They tore his friar’s habit from his back, seized upon him and carried him to their father’s castle of Rocca-Secca. There his mother came to him, and in vain supplicated him to change his resolution. She ordered him to be confined and guarded from all communication with others; no one was suffered to see him but his two sisters, who were directed to use their utmost persuasions to turn him from his purpose. The result was precisely what one might have foretold; he converted his two sisters, and they assisted him to escape. He was let down from a window of the castle in a basket. Some of the Dominican brethren were waiting below to receive him, and in the following year he pronounced his final vows.
Notwithstanding his profound learning, the humility with which he concealed his acquirements and the stolid tranquillity of his deportment procured him the surname of Bos, or the Ox. One instance of his humility is at once amusing and edifying. On a certain day, when it was his turn to read aloud in the refectory, the superior, through inadvertence or ignorance, corrected him, and made him read the word with a false quantity. Though aware of the mistake, he immediately obeyed. Being told that he had done wrong to yield, knowing himself in the riiiht, he replied, “The pronunciation of a word is of little importance, but humility and obedience are of the greatest.”
From this time till his death, he continued to rise in reputation as the greatest theological writer and teacher of his time. Pope Clement IV. offered to make him an archbishop, but he constantly refused all ecclesiastical preferment. In 1274 he was sent on a mission to Naples, and was taken ill on the road, at Fossa-Nova, where was a famous abbey of the Cistercians. Here he remained for some weeks unable to continue his journey, and spent his last hours in dictating a commentary on the Song of Solomon When they brought him the sacrament, he desired to be taken from his bed and laid upon ashes strewn upon the floor. Thus he died, in tha fiftieth year of his age, and was canonized by John XXII. in 1323.
St. Thomas Aquinas represents the learning, as St. Peter Martyr represents the sanctity, of the Dominicans. Effigies of him are frequent in pictures and in prints, and the best of them bear a general resemblance, showing them to have been derived from a common original. The face is broad and rather heavy; the brow fine and ample; the expression mild and thoughtful. His attributes are, 1. a book, or several books; 2. the pen ot inkhorn; 3. on his breast a sun, within which is sometimes a human eye to express his far-seeing wisdom: 4. the sacramental cup, because he composed the Office of the Sacrament still in use. He is often intently writing, or looking up at the holy Dove hovering above him, the emblem of inspiration: he is then distinguished from other doctors and teachers, who have the same attributes, by his Dominican habit.
The most ancient and most remarkable pictures of St. Thomas Aquinas have been evidently intended to express his great learning and his authority as a doctor of the Church. I will mention five of these, all celebrated in art: —
1. By Francesco Trami, of Pisa. St. Thomas Aquinas, of colossal size, is enthroned in the centre of the picture. He holds an open book, and several books lie open on his knees; rays of light proceed from him in every direction: on the right hand stands Plato, holding open his Timeus; on the left Aristotle, holding open his Ethics; Moses, St. Paul, and the four Evangelists, are seen above, each with his book; and over all, Christ appears in a glory: from him proceed the rays ot fight which fall on the Evangelists, thence on the head of St. Thomas, and emanate from him through the universe. Under his feet lie prostrate the three arch-heretics, Arius, Sabellius, and the Arabian Averrhoes, with their books torn. In the lower part of thii picture is seen a crowd of ecclesiastics looking iii to the saint; among them, Pope Urban VI., inscribed Urbanus Sex Pisanus, who was living when the picture was painted, about 1380. It is still preserved with great care in the Church of St. Caterina, at Pisa. A figure by Benozzo Gozzolr, now in the Louvre, is so like this of Traini, that it should seem to be a copy or imitation of it, made when he was at Pisa in 1443.
2. By Taddeo Gaddi, in the large fresco in S. Maria Novella. (Florence.) St. Thomas is seated on a magnificent throne, over which hover seven angels carrying the sym’iols of the theological virtues. On his right hand sit Peter, Paul, Moses, David, and Solomon; on the left the four Evangelists. Crouching under his feet are the three great heretics, Arius, Averrhoes, atid Sabellius. In a row beneath, and enthroned under beautiful Gothic niches, are fourteen female figures, representing the arts and sciences; and at their feet are seated fourteen figures of great theological and scientific writers.
3. By Filippino Lippi, in the S. Maria-sopra-Mincrva (Home); a large elaborate fresco, similar to the preceding in the leading allegory, but the whole treated in a more modern style. St. Thomas is enthroned on high, under a canopy of rich classic architecture; under his feet are the arch-heretics, and on each side stand the theological virtues. In front of the picture are assembled those renowned polemical writers, disputants, and scholars, who are supposed to have waited on his teaching and profited by his words.
4. St. T.iomas is kneeling before a crucifix. From the mouth of the crucified Saviour proceed the words, “Bene scripsisti de me, Thomas; quam mercedem accipies?” (Thou hast written well of me, Thomas; what recompense dost thou desire ?) The saint replies, “Non aliam nisi te, Domine!” (Thyself only, O Lord!) “A companion of St. Thomas, hearing the crncifix thus speaking, stands utterly confounded and almost beside himself.” (Vasari.) This refers to a celebrated vision related by his biographers (not by himself), in which a celestial voice thus spoke to him. The same subject was painted by Francesco Vanni in the Church of San Romano at Pisa.
5. By Zurbaran, his masterpiece, the “SanTomas” now in the Museum at Seville. This famous picture was painted for the Dominican college of that city. Not having seen it, I insert Mr. Stirling’s description .—
“It is divided into three parts, and the figures are somewhat larger than life. Aloft, in the opening heavens, appear the Blessed Trinity, the Virgin, St. Paul, and St. Dominick, and the angelic doctor St. Tbonius Aquinas ascending to join their glorious company; lower down, in middle air, sit the four Doctors of the Church, grand and venerable figures, on cloudy thrones; and on the ground kneel, on the right hand, the Archbishop Diego de Deza, founder of the college, and on the left the Emperor Charles V., attended by a train of ecclesiastics. The head of St, Thomas is said to be a portrait of Don Agustin de Escobar, prebendary of Seville; and, from the close adherence to Titian’s pictures observable in the grave countenance of the imperial adorer, it is reasonable to suppose that in the other historical personages the likeness has been preserved wherever it was practicable. The dark mild face immediately behind Charles is traditionally held to be the portrait of Zurbaran himself. In spite of its blemishes as a composition, — which are perhaps chargeable less against the painter than against his Dominican patrons of the college; and in spite of a certain harshness of outline, — this picture is one of the grandest of altarpieces. The coloring throughout is rich and effective, and worthy of the school of Roelas: ihe heads are ah of them admirable studies; the draperies of the doctors ann ecclesiastics are magnificent in breadth and amplitude of fold; the imperial mantle is painted with Venetian splendor; and the street view, receding in the centre of the canvas, is admirable for its atmospheric depth and distance.”
On a certain occasion, when St. Thomas was returning by sea from Rome to Paris, “a violent storm terrified the crew and the passengers; the saint only was without fear, and continued in tranquil prayer till the storm had ceased.” I suppose this to be the subject of a. picture in St. Thomiis-d’Aqtiin at Paris, painted by Schefler.
I must mention two other learned personages who have been represented, though very rarely, in art, and who may be considered in connection with St. Thomas Aquinas.