Friday, May 22, 2009

The Last Communion of Saint Jose de Calasanz

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828)
The Last Communion of Saint Jose de Calasanz. 1819.
Oil on canvas, 250 x 180 cm.
Church of the Escuelas Pias de San Antón, Madrid

In 1819, Goya painted his last public work: The Communion of Saint José de Calasanz. He was commissioned by the Piarist Fathers to carry out the work on 8th May 1819.

The work was completed on 27th August 1819, the feast day of the Saint.

Goya did not charge the order for the commission.

Shortly after this painting was completed, Goya succumbed to a grave illness which nearly killed him.

The saint is depicted aged 91 years, old and infirm, about to receive his last communion. St. Joseph Calasanz died on August 25, 1648 at St. Pantaleo's Church in Rome, where his body is interred. Pope Clement XIII declared him a saint in 1767 and in 1948 Pope Pius XII named him the Heavenly Patron of all Christian Schools.

The Life of St Joseph Calasanz and the history of the Order he founded is perhaps instructive.

The Piarist Order, was founded in Rome by the Spaniard, Father José de Calasanz, (September 11, 1557 - August 25, 1648), He opened one school in a Roman slum in 1597 and was eager to open more. As educationalists the Piarists were revolutionary and successful. They taught useful skills such as writing and arithmetic to poor boys without payment. In 1621, the Piarists became a religious order.

By 1646, there were 40 Piarist schools all over Europe.

In that year the Order was dissolved by Pope Innocent X because of systematic child abuse.

The Piarists (Scuole Pie or Scolopi) reformed and under tight control were re-established as a teaching order by the end of the 17th century and have not been named in any child-abuse scandals since.


Joseph Calasanctius

Karen Liebreich: Fallen Order: Intrigue, Heresy, And Scandal In The Rome Of Galileo And Caravaggio (Atlantic Books, £16.99):