Friday, February 10, 2012

St Scholastica at Quarr Abbey

Today is the feast of St Scholastica, who is depicted here in a painted retable in the crypt of Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight. The retable shows influences of the School of Beuron, and the saint is shown standing in the cloister garth, hence she is flanked by the distinctive forms of the cloister windows. The abbey buildings had been designed by one of the monks, Dom Paul Bellot OSB, and they were fashioned from handmade Belgian bricks; the abbey church was built in 1911-12, and the cloisters were completed in 1914. This retable seems to be to date to this period, or shortly afterwards.

The stylized olive branches are reminiscent of Missal art from this period, and it reads: "A Domino plus potuit quia plus amavit", 'From the Lord she had more power because she had the greater love". This is a reference to a story recounted by Pope St Gregory the Great. It is a recurrent theme in medieval stories about nuns that they often ask the holy men who are visiting them to stay longer. So it was that on one occasion when St Benedict was making his annual visit to his sister, St Scholastica, she asked him to stay on so that they might talk some more about prayer and the spiritual life. However, he insisted he had to leave and return to the monastery. So, she prayed, and a storm broke, making it impossible for St Benedict to leave, so that he remained until morning conversing with his sister as she had desired.

This happened three days before she died, and St Benedict saw her soul ascend in the form of a dove, hence she is shown above with the iconographic attribute of a dove by her feet.

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