Thursday, February 19, 2015

St Peter Damian, Church Reformer

Andrea Barbiani 1708 -1779
St Peter Damian
Oil on canvas
220 x 147 cm
Biblioteca Classense, Ravenna

In this foreshortened portrait of the Saint, Barbiani depicts Peter Damian sitting in a chair covered in red velvet

He is seated in a well stocked and well furnished library

He holds a book

His face depicts concentration or his seeing a vision or listening to the two cherubs who are in the top left

On the floor is a mitre and a red galero symbols of his rank in life as Cardinal Bishop of Ostia

He is wearing the simple white gown of the monk

He was born in Ravenna in 1007

Andrea Barbiani (1708–1779) was mainly active in Ravenna and Rimini. This work was one of three portraits for the Camaldolese church of St Mary Magdalene in Ravenna. The other two were of Saints Apollinaris and Romuald, founder of the Camaldolese, 

St Romuald was also born in Ravenna

Another 18th century depiction of the saint is in the same library in Ravenna

St Peter Damian
Oil on canvas
134 x 97.5 cm
Biblioteca Classense, Ravenna

The saint is represented seated, facing three-quarters to the left, with his face turned to the right. And 'intent penned with pen on a book on the table covered with a reddish cloth 

The inscription reads:
A more dramatic rendition of the Saint is given in Canto 21 of Dante`s Paradiso where Dante places him in Saturn one of the highest planes of Paradise among the greatest of Saints, among the founders of hermit Orders along with Saint Romuald and the great Church reformers

Amos Nattini (1892-1985)
Divina Commedia, Paradiso canto XXI, San Pier Damiani nel cielo di Saturno

In Canto XXI, Dante has the Saint pronounce an invective against the luxury enjoyed by prelates in the Church of his day and in that of Dante`s

The translation is by Allen Mandelbaum

113 ...      There, within that monastery,
114   in serving God, I gained tenacity:
115   with food that only olive juice had seasoned,
116   I could sustain with ease both heat and frost,
117   content within my contemplative thoughts.

118   That cloister used to offer souls to Heaven,
119   a fertile harvest, but it now is barren
120   as Heaven's punishment will soon make plain.

121   There I was known as Peter Damian
122   and, on the Adriatic shore, was Peter
123   the Sinner when I served Our Lady's House.

124   Not much of mortal life was left to me
125   when I was sought for, dragged to take that hat
126   which always passes down from bad to worse.

127   Once there were Cephas and the Holy Ghost's
128   great vessel: they were barefoot, they were lean,
129   they took their food at any inn they found.

130   But now the modern pastors are so plump
131   that they have need of one to prop them up
132   on this side, one on that, and one in front,

133   and one to hoist them saddleward. Their cloaks
134   cover their steeds, two beasts beneath one skin:
135   o patience, you who must endure so much!"

Benedetto Gennari (1633 –  1715)
St Peter Damian 
Oil on canvas
290 x 200 cm 
Museo Diocesano, Faenza

It was the side of St Peter Damiano as a Church reformer that Pope Benedict emphasised in his catechesis on the life of the Saint in September 2009:

"In Letter 28, which is a brilliant ecclesiological treatise, Peter Damian develops a profound theology of the Church as communion. 
"Christ's Church", he writes, is united by the bond of charity to the point that just as she has many members so is she, mystically, entirely contained in a single member; in such a way that the whole universal Church is rightly called the one Bride of Christ in the singular, and each chosen soul, through the sacramental mystery, is considered fully Church". 
This is important: not only that the whole universal Church should be united, but that the Church should be present in her totality in each one of us.  
Thus the service of the individual becomes "an expression of universality" (Ep 28, 9-23). 
However, the ideal image of "Holy Church" illustrated by Peter Damian does not correspond as he knew well to the reality of his time.  
For this reason he did not fear to denounce the state of corruption that existed in the monasteries and among the clergy, because, above all, of the practice of the conferral by the lay authorities of ecclesiastical offices; various Bishops and Abbots were behaving as the rulers of their subjects rather than as pastors of souls. Their moral life frequently left much to be desired.  
For this reason, in 1057 Peter Damian left his monastery with great reluctance and sorrow and accepted, if unwillingly, his appointment as Cardinal Bishop of Ostia. 
So it was that he entered fully into collaboration with the Popes in the difficult task of Church reform. He saw that to make his own contribution of helping in the work of the Church's renewal contemplation did not suffice. He thus relinquished the beauty of the hermitage and courageously undertook numerous journeys and missions."

Maestro del S.Pier Damiani
San Pier Damiani
c 1430
Tempera on panel
76 x 41,5 cm
Pinacoteca Comunale, Ravenna

This was part of a larger altar piece, the Polittico di Santa Maria Foris Portam which was the Church in Faenza where the sarcophagus of the saint rested until the eighteenth century when it was moved to its present location

The fixed features of the face, almost iconic are based on the figure of the saint on the sarcophagus which was sculpted by Tura da Imola  in 1354

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