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Friday, June 13, 2008

The Vision of St Romuald

Andrea Sacchi (b. 1599, Nettuno, d. 1661, Roma)
La visione di San Romualdo/The Vision of St Romuald
c. 1631
Oil on canvas, 310 x 175 cm
Pinacoteca, Vatican


Saint Romuald (c. 951– traditionally 19 June, c. 1025/27) was the founder of the Camaldolese order and a major figure in the eleventh-century "renaissance of eremitical aesceticism".

The admonition in his rule Empty yourself completely and sit waiting places him in relation to the long Christian history of intellectual stillness and interior passivity in meditation or quietism.

The three elements of the Camaldolese charism are:

-Solitude for personal prayer and meditation
-Communal prayer and work within the monastery
-Promote contemplative spirituality in the world

According to the legend, a certain Maldolus, who had seen a vision of monks in white garments ascending into Heaven, gave St. Romuald some land, afterwards known as the Campus Maldoli, or Camaldoli.

St. Romuald built on this land five cells for hermits, which, with the monastery at Fontebuono, built two years later, became the famous mother-house of the Camaldolese Order.

Sacchi's most famous painting is the 'The Vision of St Romuald' of 1631. It was commissioned by the Camaldolese order in Rome for the high altar of their new church of San Romualdo.

S. Romualdo was in a small street between Piazza S. Marco and Piazza S. Apostoli. It was demolished in 1878 to make way for an extension of the Via Nazionale

The painting depicts the saint describing his vision of Camaldolese monks ascending a ladder to Heaven.

It was said that Romuald dreamed, like Jacob, of a ladder ascending to heaven and that the monks of his Order were going up it clad in white

He is seated with his brethren under a tree, pointing to the vision in the background.

It was after this dream Romuald declared that the Order should henceforth be dressed in white.

The painting remained in the church until 1797, when it was taken to Paris by the French occupiers. It was back in Rome by 1823 and by 1841 had entered the Pinacoteca at the Vatican.

Sacchi originally was inspired by Antiveduto Grammatica's (1571,-1626) painting of the same subject at the Camaldolesean hermitage at Frascati, probably painted c. 1620.

Sacchi became the chief exponent of the style sometimes called 'High Baroque Classicism`