Thursday, August 16, 2007


By now what is about to be said might seem a bit obvious to you but when trying to decipher who a saint is looking at their clothes will provide a lot of clues. Of course if they are draped in red they are a martyr or if all in white, a virgin. That would quickly narrow the field. Franciscans will most likely be in their brown, Saint Patrick is always in green bishop vesture, Sts. Jude, Peter, and Joseph regularly have a golden yellow as part of their clothing while Judas has a dingy yellow.

In general depictions of saints for veneration show them at their highest rank on earth. If you were, for example, to have a statue of Saint Ambrose commissioned, you would more likely have him depicted as a bishop rather than at any other stage in his life.

Notice the bishop’s crosier, it always “open” or with the crook facing away from him. This is to show his jurisdiction over his diocese. If he were outside his diocese (or when someone such as a vimp is holding it for him) it is in the “closed” position in deference to the ordinary.

Other saints have clothes particular to them. Maxamillion Kolbe for example is often seen in his striped prison uniform and is (just about?) the only saint depicted wearing glasses. This is because once a person is in heaven, they experience the perfect beatific vision and it is no longer necessary for them to have these aids for seeing. Perhaps in the future artists will show him holding the glasses with which we have come to identify him.

Christ the teacher is often seen in a white robe with a blue sash. During His Passion He is most often seen in red or white with red. After His Resurrection he is in white, occasionally with a gold band about His waist. The different color combinations help define what period in His life is being depicted. Christ as the Sacred Heart most often involves white and red clothing. (Please do not forget that color schemes change in iconography.) Sometimes too Christ wears red (to show His humanity) with a blue mantle (to show His divinity).

The same can be said for the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is usually depicted in all in white up until the Annunciation. From then on there is usually a blue mantle over the white. During the Passion the white is replaced with red. And of course her manifestations come with their own color schemes such as Lourdes (white with blue sash) and Fatima (usually all white and sometimes with gold trim).

Next week we will talk about feet and hands, which are far more interesting and telling.
Interestingly enough, if you want see some excellent examples of traditional Catholic symbolism concerning the saints, the artist and editor of the children’s book series, “Book of Saints, Super-Heroes of God” by Father Lovasik, S.V.D. and published by the Catholic Book Publishing Company nails the most accepted and traditional symbolism exactly.


Anonymous said...

St Josemaria Escriva is always shown with glasses.

Anonymous said...

what a colorful post

that's not intended to be a groaner, but to reflect the color which you, Fr V, have brought into our being. it is like a song, and we want to sing it for ever.
h/t to Gregory Norbert, OSB

Anonymous said...

I like Gregory Norbert.

And I was just thinking how much peace Fr. V. actually brings. I had thought that maybe it's just me this happens to, but nope. Look at all who come back regularly. And newly as well.

This is interesting stuff, Fr. V. And wasn't Fr. Lovasik your spiritual advisor, once?

Fr. V said...

Sharon - I didn't think of St. Escriva! I went looking for art of him completed since he was a saint. Pictures (paintings) seem to include the glasses - but a statue of him does not. Interesting Thanks.

Hey Uncle Jim and Just Me - everytime I forget that I enjoy doing this and think "Should I keep this up - something like your comments always ALWAYS pop up and I am fueled to go on a while longer. Thanks.

Fr. L my spiritual director? Only vicariously. ;>)

Anonymous said...

Fr V, I'm sure I'm one of many people who lurk and read your blog regularly, every day. I rarely comment, here or on any other blogs, but I truly appreciate the interesting information and good counsel you share, and hope you will continue posting for a loooong time, not just a 'while longer'! Thanks for taking the time out of your busy life to minister to us online.