Tuesday 18 December 2012

Who is this?

Pictured in the shop in Prague.

Can anyone tell me who this saint is?  I found this oil painting in a bric-a-brac shop in Prague and bought it!  The text he is pointing to is the prayer to Our Lady,  Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix.  The Sub tuum praesidium is probably the oldest Christian prayer dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This prayer was long used in both Eastern and Western rites, even if numerous variants existed. In 1917, the John Rylands Library just nearby me in Manchester, managed to acquire a large panel of Egyptian papyrus — the exact area where they were discovered is unknown — including an 18 cm by 9.4 cm fragment containing the text of this prayer in Greek probably dating from circa 250 - 300AD.  It is the basis of the Memorare:

Under thy protection
we seek refuge,
Holy Mother of God;
despise not our petitions
in our needs,
but from all dangers
deliver us always,
Virgin Glorious and Blessed.

My limited research so far suggests that:

It is one of the Fathers of the Church, possibly Eastern - the triple banded cross and the pallium point to a Patriarch or Pope.

Associated with devotion to Our Lady, as he is pointing to the text, or doctrines associated with Her that assist in protecting a correct understanding of Our Lord's nature and being.

That is has most likely been painted in the last 100 - 150 years (or possibly soon after 1917 when the fragment was discovered), so the most likely source for commissioning such a painting would be an Order with a devotion to Our Lady - the Marists (among others) have a particular devotion to this prayer.  Does the blue banner attached to the cross signify anything in particular?

Perhaps the connection to the Czech Lands has some significance?

There is a suggestion that Alexandria was the place of discovery of the fragment so could it be St Cyril of Alexandria?  The difficulty is that there are many paintings of various Fathers of the Church that all look more or less the same with few particular distinguishing features. 

So - any hints from out thee as to who it might be would be welcome.

1 comment:

GWAM said...

Hello Father,

My money is on the great Marian-devoted, and schism-settling, Pope St Sergius I.

The Maronite cross may be a multi-symbol: signifying his Antiochene heritage; and also unity of bishops, pope and patriarch (as well as the Holy Trinity, of course). He also introduced four Marian feasts: Nativity of BVM, the Annunciation, the Purification and the Assumption. I suspect that might be what the blue banner signifies. I also think that his pointing to the Sub tuum praesidium text is indicative of its usage on February 2nd.

Just a hunch anyway. Good a stab as any. Also, if you "Google Image" Pope Sergius I, it does looks like he's depicted on the Wiki thumbnail image as wearing a blue chasuble. Could be a link? Then again it could be my screen settings! Perhaps even moooore tenuously, the Wiki image of the white bearded Pope Sergius bears a similar resemblance to the white bearded chap in your painting. Which I realise is not saying very much at all. Because he also bears a similar resemblance to various depictions of St Peter, St Paul, St Andrew...Archbishop Paul Gallagher...and the bloke he served me in Sainsbury's this morning! But, you never know.

Christmas prayers for you, Fr Lawler, Fr O'Shea and all of you, locally, who are doing so much to uphold Tradition in the glorious Lancashire heartlands of the Faith.