Traveling through the region this year, I stopped by Portland's Art Museum and spent time at this exhibit. It was truly a delight to see how wonderfully the St John Altarpiece, based on the Golden legend Lives of Saints, was presented alongside layers of informational videos and related topics.
There was an excellent accompanying display on the art of egg tempera painting; a common feature at museum these days. I thought that this museum did one of the better jobs of explaining and showing the process.
To begin, view and read about the panels below:
The Panels The accompanying paragraphs (below) are from the original Golden Legend texts. Shorter paraphrases were provided by the museum.
"The Raising of Drusiana In this same year was Domitian the emperor, for his evils, put to death, and all that he had done was revoked by the senators and defeated, and thus was St. John brought again from his exile with great honour into Ephesus; and all the people of Ephesus came against him singing and saying: Blessed be he that cometh in the name of our Lord.
In that way he raised a woman which was named Drusiana, which had much loved St. John and well kept his commandments. And her friends brought her tofore St. John all weeping and saving to him: Lo! here is Drusiana which much loved thee and did thy commandments, and is dead, and desired nothing so much as thy return, and that she might see thee tofore her death. Now thou art come hither and she may not see thee.
St. John had great pity on her that was dead, and of the people that wept for her, and commanded that they should set down the bier, and unbind and take away the clothes from her. And when they had so done he said, hearing all, with a loud voice, Drusiana, my Lord God Jesu Christ ariseth thee; Drusiana arise, and go into thy house, and make ready for me some refection.
Anon she arose and went in to her house for to do the commandment of St. John, and the people made three hours long a great noise and cry, saying there is but one God, and that is he whom St. John preacheth."
St. John’s Sermons Against Material Wealth
The Sermon to Crato
"It happed on another day that Crato the philosopher made a great assembly of people in the midst of the city, for to show to them how they ought to despise the world. And he had ordained two young men brethren which were much rich, and had made them to sell their patrimony and therewith to buy precious stones, the which these two young men brake in the presence of the people, for to show how these precious and great riches of the world be soon destroyed.
That same time St. John passed by, and said to Crato the philosopher: This manner for to despise the world that thou showest is vain and foolish demonstrance, for it seeketh to have the praising of the world, and God reproveth it. My good master Jesu Christ said to a man that demanded of him how he might come to everlasting life, that he should go and sell his goods and give it, and great dread to lose that which he hath so dear and with great pain gotten. . . .".
The Sermon to the Two Backsliders [Here there is a lacuna in the text. In Voragine, after John concludes the example of the rich man in the Gospel, he puts the gems back together again. The philosopher and the young men thereupon become believers, sell the gems, and give the proceeds to the poor. Their example leads two other rich young men to do the same with their own wealth, but later they regret having done so, because their former slaves are now wearing rich garments while they themselves are in rags. St. John responds to their attitude by turning some sticks and stones into gold and gems and he bids the young men to restore themselves to their former status: “since you have lost the treasures of heaven, flourish, but only to wither.” Then he gives a second sermon against riches, with six reasons we should eschew them. The lacuna ends as St. John addresses the final reason.]
. . . “Sixthly, avaunting and praising: for the riches give occasion to be vainglorious and to praise and glorify himself. And by this it appeareth that presently is lost the weal of humility, without which the grace of God may not be had, and thus is gotten, for the world to come, pain and torment by over-great pride....
...“Scripture then, nature, creature, fortune, business and care, avaunting and praising, ought to make us withdraw for to love riches.”
St. John approved to these two men his doctrine, with his miracles, to be true, [continuing with these words:] “And ye in the name of him did miracles tofore that ye were sorry and repented you of that ye had given your riches to poor people. Now is that grace from you departed and ye become meschant [wicked] and wretches, which were in the faith strong and mighty. And tofore, the evil spirits had fear and dread of you, and by your commandment they issued out of bodies human, now have ye fear and dread of them and be become their servants.
“For whoso loveth the riches of this world, he is servant unto a devil named Mammon, and is bond and serf in keeping the riches in which he setteth his affiance. And hereof saith the Holy Ghost by the prophet David: In imagine pertransit homo, etc.: “Vainly is the man distroubled which assembleth treasure in this world, and knoweth not for whom it is,” [Ps. 38:6] for when he shall die he shall bear nothing with him, and he wotteth not who shall dispend it, for naked we came upon the earth and all naked shall we re-enter into it.
“And to a meschant [wicked] man it sufficeth not when he hath enough, but he is busy day and night to get more without rest. For the riches make him fearful to lose that he hath gotten, and bringeth to him many businesses and evil rest in making worldly delights. And he, dispurveyed [rendered destitute], death cometh which taketh all from him, and beareth nothing with him save his proper sins.”
The Repentance of the Young Backsliders
Anon then these two men by right great repentance prayed St. John that he would pray for them, to whom St. John answered that they should do penance thirty days long, and pray to God that the rods of gold and the precious stones might return to their first proper natures.
After these thirty days they came to St. John and said to him: Fair father, ye have always preached misericord [mercy] and mercy, and commanded that one should pardon another his trespass, we be contrite and repentant of our sins and weep with our eyes for this evil worldly covetise, the which we have by them received, and therefore we pray you that ye have mercy on us.
And St. John answered: Our Lord God when he made mention of the sinner he said, “I will not the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live, for great joy is in Heaven of a sinner repentant.” And therefore know ye that he hath received your repentance, go ye forth and bear the rods and stones thither where ye took them, for they be returned to their first nature. Thus received they the grace that they had lost, so that after they did great miracles in the name of our Lord Jesu Christ.
St. John Raises Satheus, Who Affirms the Truth of What He Has Said When St. John had said all this there was brought tofore him a young man dead, which only had been in marriage thirty days. And his mother and friends wept sore, which tofore St. John kneeled down on their knees, praying him that he would raise him to life. St. John had great pity, and when he had long wept he bade to loose and unbind the body and said: O Satheus, which wert blinded with fleshly love, soon thou hast lost thy soul, and because thou knewest not thy maker Jesu Christ, thou art fallen ignorantly into the leash of the right evil fiends, wherefore I weep and pray that thou mayst be releved from death to life, and show thou to these twain, Actius and Eugenius, what great glory they have lost and what pain they have deserved.
Anon Satheus releved him in yielding thankings to St. John, and blamed much the two disciples in saying: I saw your two angels weep and the devils demene joy of your perdition, also I saw the realm of heaven made ready for you and full of all delights, and ye have follily gotten for you the place of hell, dark and tenebrous [full of darkness], full of dragons and of all pains, and therefore it behoveth you to pray to the apostle of God that he remise [restore] and bring you again to your salvation, like as he hath revived me goodly. And among all other pains, this Satheus reciteth these that be contained in two verses following:
Vermes et umbrae, flagellum, frigus et ignis, Dæmonis aspectus, scelerum confusio, luctus – that is to say: worms, darkness, scourges, cold, heat, sight of devil, confusion of sins, and wailing.
The Destruction of Diana’s TempleAnd then after this when the blessed apostle St. John had preached through all Asia [i.e., Asia Minor], and sown the word of Christ, they that worshipped idols moved the people against St. John, and came and drove him into the temple of Diana for to constrain him to do sacrifice unto that idol. To whom St. John said: Sith ye believe that your goddess Diana hath so great power, call ye upon her and require her by her power she subvert and overthrow the Church of Christ, and if she so do, I shall do sacrifice to her, and if she do it not, then let me pray unto my God Jesu Christ that he overthrow her temple, and if he so do then believe ye in him.
To this sentence the most part of the people consented, and so they. . . .
The Cup of Poison [Another lacuna.The temple does collapse, and Diana’s statue resolves to dust. Next, the high priest Aristodemus puts a proposal to St. John: Aristodemus will convert if St. John will drink poison and survive. First, to prove the poison is real, John has two criminals drink it; they die. John then drinks the poison himself, lives, and revives the two criminals. Caxton’s text continues with what John then said to Aristodemus:]
. . . for I shall yield account for thee to Jesu Christ, and truly I shall gladly die for thee like as Jesu Christ died for us. Turn again my son, turn again, Jesu Christ hath sent me to thee...
.....And when he [Aristodemus] heard him thus speak he abode with a heavy cheer and wept, repenting him bitterly, and fell down to the feet of the apostle, and for penance kissed his hand. And the apostle fasted and prayed to God for him, and gat for him remission of his sins and forgiveness, and he lived so virtuously after, that St. John ordained him to be a bishop.
Francescuccio Ghissi, Italian, active 1359–1395
The Crucifixion, c. 1370, Tempera on panel
72.7 x 50.3 cm (28 5/8 x 19 3/4 in.); With Frame: 81.9 x 61 cm (32 1/4 x 24 in.)
I N R I (at the top of the cross in white paint on red)
Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection, 1937.1006
Compare Ghissi 's Crucifixion located at the Milan Museum here.
AND NEXT FOLLOWETH OF ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST
John is expounded the grace of God, or he in whom grace is, or to whom it is given of our Lord, and therefore been understood four privileges that be in the blessed St. John. The first was the noble love of Jesu Christ, for he loved him more than the other and showed to him of greater love, and therefore he is said the grace of God, also as gracious God. And to him he was more gracious than to Peter, for he loved him much, but he is love of courage and of sign, and this that is of signs is double. That one is for to show familiarity and that other is in giving benefices. As to the first he loved that one and the other equally, as to the second he loved more John, and as to the third, he loved more Peter. The second was virginity when he was chosen virgin of God, and therefore it is said in what is that grace, for grace of virginity is in a virgin, and when he would marry he was called of God. The third is the revelation of the secrets of our Lord, therefore it is said to whom grace is given, for to him was given to know many secrets and profound, as of the divinity of the Son of God, and of the end of the world. The fourth is the recommendation of the mother of God, which gift of grace was given of our Lord, for this gift was given to him when the mother was given to him into keeping. And Miletus, Bishop of Liege, wrote his life, the which Isidore abridged and set it in the book of nativities of the life and the death of holy fathers... Read the rest here.
Notes, Art, Photography CMJENTZ ©2013-2018
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