Cardinal Vincent Nichols offers his reflections on this painting by the Italian Renaissance artist Masaccio titled 'Saints Jerome and John the Baptist'.
Masaccio’s ‘Saints Jerome and John the Baptist’ is one of two sides of a single panel that was divided into two and was commissioned for the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome.
For Catholics all over the world, St Jerome is a very important saint and Biblical scholar. And in 2020, we’re celebrating the 1,600th anniversary of his death.
As a Scripture scholar, St Jerome is always depicted with the Bible by which he receives divine inspiration from the Holy Spirit. Angels are believed to have visited Jerome regularly to help him with his commentaries, and with his failing eyesight; we might like to think of it as a sort of spiritual dictation.
If we look in detail at this wonderful painting of St Jerome – who dominates the canvas with his crimson red garments, we notice he holds two items: the Bible open at the book of Genesis in Latin, and a model of a typical 15th century Italian church. Jerome is one of the four Doctors of the Church, together with Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory the Great, and also, a Father of the Church.
So these two symbols of Bible and Church represent St Jerome’s life-long faith and vocation to the word of God.
Useful Readers’ Notes can be downloaded here to accompany the Cardinal’s film and encourage further engagement.
Visit the official website for the National Gallery, London.