Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Art in the Time of Pandemic, a Postscript

In the Corona series:
The Corona Sidestep: A Virtual Exhibition
Art in the Time of Pandemic, Part 1
Art in the time of Pandemic, Part 2
Art in the Time of Pandemic, Part 3
All art (c) 2020 the individual artists  

It turns out there is a Saint Corona, protector against pandemics.

Contemporary icon of Saint Corona; unattributed image from the internet

According to legend, 16-year-old Stefania comforted Victor, a Roman soldier, who was being tortured for his Christian beliefs. When the soldiers arrested Stefania for offering succor to the dying man, she revealed her own Christianity in solidarity with his. Victor was beheaded after his eyes were gouged out. (Other sources say that he was tied to a pillar and whipped until his skin fell off.)

Stefania also met a violent end. As punishment for her beliefs, she was bound to two tall palm trees that had been bent down to the ground. When the ropes holding the trees were released, the trunks sprang back upright, tearing the woman in two. In martyrdom she became known as Corona because just before death she revealed that in a vision she had seen a golden crown, or corona.

This story dates to about 170 A.D. The location varies according to the teller. The Greeks say it was Syria, while the Romans say it was Sicily.

Santa Corona is venerated in Italy, particularly northern Italy and up into Austria and Bavaria, as the protector against plagues and epidemics (although Snopes begs to differ on the pandemic angle). Saint Corona’s remains are enshrined in the cathedral in Aachen, Germany, and in the church of Saints Victor and Corona in Anzu, Italy, the latter located in the epicenter of the Italian outbreak. Her feast day is May 14.

I long ago walked away in disgust from the Catholic church and have no ties to any organized religion, but I must admit that I love paintings of the saints (especially from the Italian Renaissance) and am enamored of the voodoo attributed to them. In this pandemic, which we are learning will be with us for a very long time, whatever ways we connect to the Universe can’t hurt.

Left: Portion of an altarpiece showing Saint Corona, attributed to the Palazzo Venezia Madonna. Note the golden corona she is holding. Image in the public domain, via Artnet

Below: Page from the Menologion of Basil II, an illuminated manuscript designed as an Eastern Orthodox Church service book. The image depicts Saint Corona tied to the palm trees and the just-beheaded Saint Victor
Image from the Vatican Library

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1 comment:

  1. I'm a not a Catholic either (Bon Buddhist), but also drawn to the golden altarpieces of the mid-14th century on, as famine, economic collapse, and plague swept Italy. Coincidence? Delighted with St. Corona, and hope some of her karmic support extends to us artists. Thank you for this.