Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pala di Santa Monica

Antonio Vivarini (c.1415-m.1476/84)
The Marriage of St Monica
Tempera on panel
47 x 32 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Antonio Vivarini (c.1415-m.1476/84)
Birth of Saint Augustine
Tempera on panel
32.7 cm  x 25.3 cm
The Courtauld Gallery, London

Antonio Vivarini (c.1415-m.1476/84)
St Ambrose baptising St Augustine
Tempera on panel
40.3 x 26.5 cm
Accademia Carrara, Bergamo

Vivarini is known to have painted an altarpiece ("Pala di Santa Monica") dedicated to Saint Monica for the Venetian church of San Stefano, the Church of the Augustinians

It depicted scenes from the lives of St Monica and her son, St Augustine

Book 9 of St Augustine`s Confessions describes how he received baptism and discusses the life and virtues of his mother, St Monica

Monica was never a religious, even after the death of her husband Patrick

It contains with the following encomium:
"22. Finally, her own husband, now towards the end of his earthly existence, did she gain over unto You; and she had not to complain of that in him, as one of the faithful, which, before he became so, she had endured. She was also the servant of Your servants. Whosoever of them knew her, did in her much magnify, honour, and love You; for that through the testimony of the fruits of a holy conversation, they perceived You to be present in her heart. For she had been the wife of one man, had requited her parents, had guided her house piously, was well-reported of for good works, had brought up children, as often travailing in birth of them as she saw them swerving from You. Lastly, to all of us, O Lord (since of Your favour Thou sufferest Your servants to speak), who, before her sleeping in You, lived associated together, having received the grace of Your baptism, did she devote, care such as she might if she had been mother of us all; served us as if she had been child of all. ...
37. May she therefore rest in peace with her husband, before or after whom she married none; whom she obeyed, with patience bringing forth fruit unto You, that she might gain him also for You. And inspire, O my Lord my God, inspire Your servants my brethren, Your sons my masters, who with voice and heart and writings I serve, that so many of them as shall read these confessions may at Your altar remember Monica, Your handmaid, together with Patricius, her sometime husband, by whose flesh You introduced me into this life, in what manner I know not. May they with pious affection be mindful of my parents in this transitory light, of my brethren that are under You our Father in our Catholic mother, and of my fellow citizens in the eternal Jerusalem, which the wandering of Your people sighs for from their departure until their return. That so my mother's last entreaty to me may, through my confessions more than through my prayers, be more abundantly fulfilled to her through the prayers of many."

Pope Francis in August of last year described the relationship of Monica with Augustine in these terms:

"3. And let us come to the last kind of restlessness, the anxiety of love. Here I cannot but look at the mother: this Monica! How many tears did that holy woman shed for her son’s conversion! And today too how many mothers shed tears so that their children will return to Christ! Do not lose hope in God’s grace! In the Confessions we read this sentence that a bishop said to St Monica who was asking him to help her son find the road to faith: “it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish” (III, 12, 21). After his conversion Augustine himself, addressing God, wrote: “my mother, your faithful one, wept before you on my behalf more than mothers are wont to weep the bodily death of their children” (ibid., III, 11, 19). 
A restless woman, this woman who at the end of her life said these beautiful words: “cumulatius hoc mihi Deus praestitit!” [my God has exceeded my expectations abundantly] (ibid., IX, 10, 26). God lavishly rewarded her tearful request! And Augustine was Monica’s heir, from her he received the seed of restlessness. This, then, is the restlessness of love: ceaselessly seeking the good of the other, of the beloved, without ever stopping and with the intensity that leads even to tears. "