Saturday, 11 February 2012

St Patrick in Art...

Thanks to for a very interesting article about the history of my patron, St Patrick, in Art. Naturally I had known hitherto of the existence of local cults outside Ireland, but wholly new to me was the fact that the Apostle to the Irish was represented in very different ways; in Ireland usually in the form of a bishop in apparelled alb, amice, with a green chasuble decked about with a green shamrock (with which he famously explained the doctrine of the Triune God), and crozier - very dignified; in France, by contrast, as shewn in the Legenda Aurea of Jacopo de Voragine, as a tonsured monk in cowls, piercing the foot of King Oengus of Cashel, as he administered the Sacrament of Baptism unto him - less dignified, perhaps, but almost reminiscent of the perception of Peregrin Took in the Tower of Guard, of the difference between Gandalf and Denethor. Denethor looked older, wiser, more like a sorcerer of great power, and yet Gandalf, he sensed by a perception other than sight, held the greater dignity, and a power which he veiled. Also of note is the author's observation of Counter Reformation standards and the imposition of strict uniformity and control over the cult of local saints. We all know how St Patrick was treated by Pius V in his revision of the Roman liturgical books.

Very worth the read, for lovers of St Patrick, the cult of local saints (even very important ones), and the history of Art and hagiography.


  1. "We all know how St Patrick was treated by Pius V in his revision of the Roman liturgical books."

    Well, no, said the Presbyterian! But I am guessing "not well" is the answer? I'll have to check out the article and see.

    These were nice reflections, especially the link to Tolkien! Are you aware of Tomie de Paola's children's book on the life of Patrick? Very lovely, in both the telling and the illustration. While still a pastor, I used it several times as the basis for a "children's sermon" (one of the more unfortunate American Protestant liturgical practices, if one can call it that, for all sorts of reasons - not because it ostensibly involves children in worship, but because it doesn't encourage them to become involved at a real, deep level - but that's a rant for another time!)

  2. Mike, thank you for your comment.

    Poor St Patrick was deemed too unimportant for Pius V's new missal and his feast was removed from the Roman Kalendar of Saints. He was brought back 34 years later by his successor Clement VIII.

    I'm afraid that what you say about most (if not all - I would certainly say all) children's services is only too true. I find them inauthentic, cheap, distasteful, and patronising which only serves to prevent them from becoming involved at a real, deep level, as you so aptly put it. Let the children be steeped in the Tradition, I say!

    Mind you, I've said this before, both cases entail some degree of danger. Without proper instruction and a religious education, even the Tradition becomes dangerous. My 60 year old uncle said to me years ago that at Mass, as a boy, he fondly supposed that the celebrant was doing a crossword puzzle, because he ''had his back to us'' - a trite saying. Or maybe this is just ''that generation.'' You'll find that most people who shook off traditions and went nuts in the '60s were of his generation, and older.

    God help the children!

  3. Patrick possessed the Staff of Christ, as conveyed to Ireland through the Apostles.