Mulier Amicta Sole

Fresco depicting the Apocalypse, the Dragon threatening the Woman, on the porch ceiling of the Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, Poitou, France.
Fresco depicting the Apocalypse, the Dragon threatening the Woman, on the porch ceiling of the Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, Poitou, France.

Et signum magnum apparuit in caelo: mulier amicta sole, et luna sub pedibus ejus, et in capite ejus corona stellarum duodecim: et in utero habens, clamabat parturiens, et cruciabatur ut pariat. Et visum est aliud signum in caelo: et ecce draco magnus rufus habens capita septem, et cornua decem: et in capitibus ejus diademata septem, et cauda ejus trahebat tertiam partem stellarum caeli, et misit eas in terram: et draco stetit ante mulierem, quae erat paritura, ut cum peperisset, filium ejus devoraret. Et peperit filium masculum, qui recturus erat omnes gentes in virga ferrea: et raptus est filius ejus ad Deum, et ad thronum ejus, et mulier fugit in solitudinem ubi habebat locum paratum a Deo, ut ibi pascant eam diebus mille ducentis sexaginta. Et factum est praelium magnum in caelo: Michael et angeli ejus praeliabantur cum dracone, et draco pugnabat, et angeli ejus: et non valuerunt, neque locus inventus est eorum amplius in caelo. Et projectus est draco ille magnus, serpens antiquus, qui vocatur diabolus, et Satanas, qui seducit universum orbem: et projectus est in terram, et angeli ejus cum illo missi sunt.

Apoc. xii. 1-9.

A Door is Opened

Watercolour copy of a (now destroyed) fresco painting of St. Ninian in St. Congan's Church, Turriff, Aberdeenshire; reproduced in The Book Of Deer (ed. by John Stuart for the Spalding Club), Edinburgh, 1869.
Watercolour copy of a (now destroyed) fresco painting of St. Ninian in St. Congan’s Church, Turriff, Aberdeenshire; reproduced in The Book Of Deer (ed. by John Stuart for the Spalding Club), Edinburgh, 1869.

Meanwhile the most blessed man, grieved that the devil, who had been driven out of the region beside the ocean, had found for himself a dwelling place in a corner of the island in the hearts of the Picts, girded himself as a strong wrestler to overthrow his kingdom, and put on, moreover, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the breast-plate of charity, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Equipped with such arms and surrounded by a company of his holy brethren, as by a heavenly host, he invaded the empire of the strong man armed, to rescue from his power innumerable vessels of captivity. Wherefore going to the Southern Picts,among whom the error of the Gentiles still prevailed, compelling them to venerate and worship idols deaf and dumb, he preached the truth of the Gospel and the purity of the Christian Faith, the Lord working with him and confirming his word with signs following. The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the oppressed of the devil are delivered. A door is opened for the Word of God; by the grace of the Holy Spirit faith is received, error abandoned, temples cast down, and churches built. To the font of the saving laver, rich and poor, young men and maidens, old and young, and mothers with their children hasten, and renouncing Satan with all his works and pomps, are joined to the body of the believers by faith, confession, and the sacraments. They give thanks to the most merciful God, that in the isles which are afar off he had revealed His name, sending to them a preacher of the truth, a lamp of salvation, and calling them His people which were not His people, and them beloved which were not beloved, and them as having obtained mercy which had not obtained mercy. Then the holy bishop began to ordain presbyters, to consecrate bishops, to distribute the other dignities of the ecclesiastical orders, and to divide the whole land into parishes with fixed bounds. Finally, having confirmed, in faith and good works, his children whom he had begotten in Christ, and having set in order all things which seemed to be necessary to the honour of God and for the salvation of souls, he bade farewell to the brethren, and returned to his own church, where in great tranquillity of soul, he spent a life perfect in all sanctity and glorious in miracles.

Vita Sancti Niniani, vi.

A City of Freedom

Christ in Majesty and the Heavenly Jerusalem, fresco, c. 1120; Église Saint-Theudère de Saint-Chef.
Christ in Majesty and the Heavenly Jerusalem, fresco, c. 1120; Église Saint-Theudère de Saint-Chef.

Tell me, you who are so eager to have the law for your master, have you never read the law? You will find it written there, that Abraham had two sons; one had a slave for his mother, and one a free woman. The child of the slave was born in the course of nature; the free woman’s, by the power of God’s promise. All that is an allegory; the two women stand for the two dispensations. Agar stands for the old dispensation, which brings up its children to bondage, the dispensation which comes to us from mount Sinai. Mount Sinai, in Arabia, has the same meaning in the allegory as Jerusalem, the Jerusalem which exists here and now; an enslaved city, whose children are slaves. Whereas our mother is the heavenly Jerusalem, a city of freedom. So it is that we read, Rejoice, thou barren woman that hast never borne child, break out into song and cry aloud, thou that hast never known travail; the deserted one has more children than she whose husband is with her. It is we, brethren, that are children of the promise, as Isaac was. Now, as then, the son who was born in the course of nature persecutes the son whose birth is a spiritual birth. But what does our passage in scripture say? Rid thyself of the slave and her son; it cannot be that the son of a slave should divide the inheritance with the son of a free woman.

— Epistle to the Galatians, iv. 21-30.

Consul videt; hic tamen vivit. Vivit?

Representation of a sitting of the Roman Senate: Cicero attacks Catiline, from a 19th century fresco in Palazzo Madama, Rome, house of the Italian Senate. It is worth noting that idealistic medieval and subsequent artistic depictions of the forum in session are almost uniformly inaccurate. Illustrations commonly show the senators arranged in a semicircle around an open space where orators were deemed to stand; in reality the structure of the existing Curia Julia building, which dates in its current form from the Emperor Diocletian, shows that the senators sat in straight and parallel lines on either side of the interior of the building. In current media depictions in film this is shown correctly in The Fall of the Roman Empire, and incorrectly in, for example, Spartacus.
Representation of a sitting of the Roman Senate: Cicero attacks Catiline, from an idealistic XIX century fresco in Palazzo Madama, Rome, house of the Italian Senate. Cicero Denounces Catiline, fresco by Cesare Maccari, 1882-1888.

Shame on the age and on its principles! The senate is aware of these things; the consul sees them; and yet this man lives. Lives! aye, he comes even into the senate. He takes a part in the public deliberations; he is watching and marking down and checking off for slaughter every individual among us. And we, gallant men that we are, think that we are doing our duty to the republic if we keep out of the way of his frenzied attacks. You ought, O Catiline, long ago to have been led to execution by command of the consul. That destruction which you have been long plotting against us ought to have already fallen on your own head.

* * *

O tempora, o mores! Senatus haec intellegit. Consul videt; hic tamen vivit. Vivit? immo vero etiam in senatum venit, fit publici consilii particeps, notat et designat oculis ad caedem unum quemque nostrum. Nos autem fortes viri satis facere rei publicae videmur, si istius furorem ac tela vitemus. Ad mortem te, Catilina, duci iussu consulis iam pridem oportebat, in te conferri pestem, quam tu in nos [omnes iam diu] machinaris.

— Oratio in L. Catilinam Prima, ii.