Less well known than the English Reformation or the French Revolution, it was an equally disastrous time for the Catholic Church.
As the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi is fast approaching, here is a mark of the impression he made on the arts. His love of animals is a common feature of modern imagery, but his love of Christ is really a more important tradition. Some paintings show St. Francis renouncing the world (the globe under his feet) and embracing his Savior. Our Lord releases an arm to comfort the saint.
The supreme painter of this scene was the Spanish artist Murillo. He created this and many other sacred images for the Capuchin Convent of Seville in around 1668.
A brass plaque like the one shown below would have been taken home as a sacred souvenir by the many visitors who went to the convent to admire this work. It was almost certainly made before the 19th century, as this was when the “Spanish Confiscation” really got going. Less well known than the English Reformation or the French Revolution, it was an equally disastrous time for the Catholic Church. Vast numbers of religious communities were disbanded and their properties taken by the state or destroyed. Ecological crimes were also committed, including mass deforestation. Monastic buildings were often sold and transported stone by stone to the new rich of America.
Art collections were also seized and never returned, which is what happened to Murillo’s paintings for the Capuchins. They now sit in Seville’s municipal art museum, which is itself a former convent. There is a cruel irony in the painting’s inscription, held aloft by angels. Taken from Luke 14:33, it says in Latin: “None of you can be my disciple without giving up everything that he owns.”
The virtual Museum of the Cross
This 18th-century brass plaquette is from the collection of the Museum of the Cross, the first institution dedicated to the diversity of the most powerful and far-reaching symbol in history. After 10 years of preparation, the museum was almost ready to open; then came COVID-19. In the meantime, the virtual museum has started an Instagram account to engage with Aleteia readers and the stories of their own crucifixes: @crossXmuseum