{    Cnytr   }

{Wednesday, April 06, 2005  }

.:{Dominican Iconography}:.

Back to blogging about Dominicans.

(You know, it was only in October when Zadok said to me, quote, "You should blog about more Dominican stuff." The rest, as they say, is history.)

From the comment box, a certain Albertus M asks,

So why is it that some depictions of St. Dominic have a flame on his head? I go to a Dominican church, and a recent convert asked me that. I was stumped, but now I'm curious.

Respondeo dicendum:

It's actually usually a small light, usually drawn as a star. This is because Our Holy Father Dominic is hailed as the "Lumen Ecclesiae", the "Light of the Church". Furthermore, there was said, while he lived, to be a heavenly light upon his face.

Also some of the most commonly-used images in Dominican iconography involve light or light rays, flames or books, all denoting the light of divine wisdom, though the fire also means a consuming love and firey preaching.

So you'll see St. Thomas Aquinas with a sun or an angelic face on the front of his habit, denoting his title as the "Doctor Angelicus" (the Angelic Doctor/Teacher), often looking upwards into a ray of light as he's writing the Summae (divine inspiration).

Both Sts. Vincent Ferrer and Raymond of Penyafort have the flame.

The significance of the Dominican flame --

When Bld. Joan of Aza was pregnant with Our Holy Father Dominic, she had a dream of a dog with a torch in its mouth circling the globe, signifying that the child to be born would set the world on fire.

It's typical to depict *any* Dominican with a book, seeing as study is one of the pillars of Dominican life, and most Dominicans have written something. The following is, I think, the most generic Dominican you will ever see:

There's literally no way to tell who he is. Somehow I got this image with no caption as well.

However, you add a star and you get Our Holy Father Dominic:

(and so begins the first of Lauren's two-second terrible-Photoshop jobs)

At this point, one needs only change one or two things max to change the identity of the Dominican imaged.

Behold, Bld. Jordan of Saxony

St. Peter Martyr

Bld. Hyacinth(us); not to be confused with ...

St. Thomas Aquinas
(O my patron, forgive me!)

St. Raymond of Penyafort

St. Vincent Ferrer

And last but not least,

St. Martin DePorres.

Yeah, YOU tell me how to do that and make it PC! ;)

For more whatness, see symbols of the saints in art and also the litany of Dominican Saints and Blesseds.
posted by Lauren, 12:24 AM


Thanks! That explains all, and more. What a wonderful guide!
commented by Anonymous Albertus M, 2:27 AM  
My dear Albertus,

As Jeeves was often heard to say, "I endeavor to give satisfaction."

(To anyone called "Albertus", especially "Albertus M", I, as a Thomas Aquinas, feel most inclined to submit myself.)

(But don't get any funny ideas, Br. Andy.)
commented by Blogger Lauren, 5:13 AM  
Lauren, you're a riot!
commented by Blogger Zadok the Roman, 9:40 AM  

Lauren, not only are you not PC. but you're irreverent!

You should have made St. Dominic's Star --flash.

Where's the dog?
commented by Anonymous Faith, 12:41 PM  
My dear Faith,

I actually tried to do a lense flare for the star, but it didn't show up with all the white. (With the star, he doesn't need the dog to show that he is SPN Dominicus.)

I find it most amusing that because of the depiction with the star, he has become the patron saint of astronomers. *most amused*
commented by Blogger Lauren, 12:54 PM  
Actually, you know, I have seen less convincing portraits of St. Martin.
commented by Blogger Tom, 12:56 PM  
I think coke just went through my nose from laughing so hard.
commented by Blogger Father McCarthy, 1:58 PM  
If you give your general OP friar a scientific instrument (e.g., globe), you will indeed have St. Albertus Magnus. I won't mind if you take this idea; I give it freely.


Andy K.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 4:08 PM  
From what I understand, the star typically denotes all of the things you mentioned, Lauren, but originates from a story from Dominic's life. It's related that as he was praying one evening, he asked God where he should found the first convent for Dominican nuns (he wouldn't have called them that), and that a star descended upon the place where he should establish the convent - Prouilhe. Ergo, the star, and as I said, along with all of the other reasons you gave.
commented by Blogger jonahpaul, 7:16 PM  
It's always a six or eight pointed star, I forget which. I always wanted to know the reason for that. Thanks for your gallery of Dominican saints. I was in a Dominican church in Spain once that was just a series of similar statues, male and female. The only one one that stood out was Catherine of Siena because she was a tertiary, she had a different habit.
commented by Blogger Margaret, 10:56 PM  
Excellent! Don't forget to give St. Martin de Porres a black scapular as well!

IIRC, St. Dominic has a "rosa nautica" as his light/shield generally. The rosa nautica is the 8-pointed nautical navigation star with the 8 main points of the compass, in other words, a light to navigate by. But my memory could fail me.
commented by Anonymous Dismas, OP, 4:42 PM  
A fantastic and amusing guide. Thanks. A Dominican friar in Calamba, the Philippines told me that in the Dominican college there, they have an old Spanish ivory statue of a generic saint which they dressed up accordingly for various OP feasts, just as you PhotoShopped it! They called the statue the schizophrenic saint!!
commented by Blogger Br Lawrence, O.P., 4:43 AM  
I have also seen St Vincent Ferrer depicted with a flame resting on his head like something out of a Pentecost scene, as distinct from Dominic's star.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 8:53 AM  
In the spanish village where I live there is a Dominican church built about 500 years ago with money coming from the thriving inquistion business. It is full of the wildest iconography - most of it totally incomprehensible to a modern person. I wish I could find a comprehensive work on Dominican icons.
John Sailorman
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 4:32 PM  

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