Tuesday, July 25, 2017

St James the Greater, the Son of Zebedee

I wrote recently about some ideas for guiding principles by which we might create a canon of art for Roman Rite churches, and a schema that would guide the placement of such images in a church.

I now plan on a series of articles describing the key elements of images of the saints of the Roman Canon - Eucharistic Prayer I - and the major feasts of the year. My hope is that it may stimulate interest in some of you to realize such schemes of art in your church. As I say in the article linked above, the goal is also to engender a manner of worship in which the faithful engage fruitfully with holy images while participating in the liturgy.

This is quite a big project, and so I don’t expect to do the whole thing in the course of one year. I don’t know if I have the time to do the research and writing for the complete set in that time, but I will do the best I can. I am heartened by the fact that even for our own Shawn Tribe, who for many years was tireless in posting several times a day on this site, two years elapsed between his feature The Saints of the Roman Canon, Part 1 and its reprise The Saints of the Roman Canon, Part 2! My general plan is to cover the Saints first, and then the feasts, but I always go where my curiosity takes me, so I will throw in a great feast from time to time in this first year. I have created the tag “Canon of Art for the Roman Rite”, so that should any be interested, they can access the accumulating body of articles at any time.

Anyway, so here we go...

Today, July 25th, is the feast of St James the Greater, the Son of Zebedee.
The images of St James are simple, and it would not always be easy to recognise him - except that in order to be worthy of veneration, the name of the saint should appear on or beside every image! In traditional iconography, he is depicted bearded with short, brown curly hair. He was martyred only 10 years after the Resurrection, and is ordinarily not seen with grey hair to indicate that he did not live to old age. He holds a scroll, which is an indication of divine wisdom. In Western images, the equivalent might be also the holding of a book. The icon below is from the late 18th century.

In Western images, he is often depicted with longer hair, still usually brown and curly, and holding a pilgrim’s staff, a reference to the tradition that he is buried at Santiago de Compostela. This is, of course, still a very important pilgrimage site to this day, and many people every year follow all or part of the Way of St James from France to the final destination in Spain.

Here is a 14th century depiction by Pere Serra, who lived and worked in Cataloniam with Ss Peter, Clare, James, and John the Evangelist.

Below is one of my favourite images of him, painted by the baroque master, Guido Reni. (1636-38)

A contemporary painting by the Spanish baroque master, Alonso Cano.

And a 15th century Spanish statuette in stone.

For the fullest presentation of the principles of sacred art for the liturgy, take the Master’s of Sacred Arts at www.Pontifex.University.

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