Saturday, 1 March 2014


Saints are always portrayed in such a manner that we can easily recognise them. Some are shown with their instruments of martyrdom (Saint Catherine with her spiked wheel), and others with well-known attributes (Saint George in full armour). Pictures of the evangelists who wrote the four gospels, not surprisingly, show them writing; but they are also distinguished from each other by each being attended by his own particular animal.

Saint Mark's emblem is a lion
Saint Mark was also the patron saint of Venice, and the Venetian empire at its height left the sign of the winged lion throughout the Greek islands. ("They veil the plumed lions on the galleys of Saint Mark" - G. K. Chesterton: "Lepanto")
This one is from Corfu.

Saint Luke's emblem is a bull. But there is the unusual tradition about Saint Luke that he once painted a portrait of the Virgin Mary, so he is sometimes depicted doing that rather than writing his gospel. (How he was able to paint the young Mary and the infant Jesus from the life is not explained) In this picture it is only the bull in the bottom left-hand corner that tells us that the painter is meant to be Luke.
Luke's painting is said to be in a monastery in Cyprus. It is so sacred that it is kept covered, and only unveiled once a year.

Saint John has an eagle

and Saint Matthew has a man; though with his wings he could be mistaken for an angel.

We can add to these Saint Peter and Saint Paul, who are also easy to identify. Saint Peter has a bushy white beard and hair, and he always carries a pair of large keys. These are the keys of heaven and hell, given to him by Christ himself; which has been the foundation of the Papal claim to supremacy.

Saint Paul, by contrast, has a rather thin black beard and a bald forehead, often with a single lock of hair upon it. He often carries a sword as well as a book, referring to the tradition that he was beheaded during the persecution of Christians under the Emperor Nero.

I hope to describe more saints in a later post.

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