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The Saints In Art - N

( Originally Published 1908 )


NAZARIUS and CELSUS, SS. (two martyrs of Milan). (28th July)

Legend says that St. Nazarius was the son of a Christian mother, who had him baptised by St. Peter. He became a fervent Christian, and, accompanied by a youth named Celsus, preached the Gospel in Cisalpine Gaul, converting many. They were beheaded together at Milan.

They are always represented together, St. Nazarius as old, St. Celsus as young.

In their church at Verona is a picture of them by Bartolomeo Montagna.

NICHOLAS, ST. (of Myra). (6th December)

Patron Saint of Children, also of Sailors, and Seaports. Popularly invoked by all in inferior positions—the young, the weak, the poor, the slave, the captive, and the sailor struggling with the sea. He was born in the third century, in Lycia, Asia Minor, to Christian parents, in answer to prayers and almsgiving. According to legend he was a prodigy from his birth, for in his first bath he stood up and joined his hands in thanks-giving to GOD. He was dedicated from childhood to the service of the Church. His parents died while he was still a youth, leaving him great riches, which he distributed to the poor. A certain nobleman in the city was reduced to such poverty that he and his three daughters had nothing to eat ; as there seemed no way of saving his children from an evil life he became desperate. Nicholas, hearing of this, went stealthily by night and found him weeping while the daughters slept. He threw a purse of gold in at the window and crept away. The father gave it as a marriage portion to one of his daughters, and the same thing happened for the second and the third. Finally the secret was discovered, but St. Nicholas insisted that the nobleman should tell no one. After some years he voyaged to the Holy Land : on the way, in a terrible storm, he rebuked the waves, and restored to life a drowned sailor. St. Nicholas then went to Myra, where he was after a time made bishop, for he happened to fulfil a prophecy that the man chosen by GOD for the post was the first who entered the church in the morning. While he held this office there was a great famine : he insisted that ships in the harbour, laden with wheat bound for Constantinople, should be unloaded for the benefit of his people, promising the owners that when they arrived at their destination they would still be found full of wheat ; and so it was. One day, during the famine, while travelling through his diocese, he came to the house of a man who stole and ate children. He was actually preparing some for St. Nicholas, who, when he discovered, went to the tub where the limbs were, and, making the sign of the cross, the children rose up whole and well. During a visit of the tribunes of Constantine's army to Myra, some innocent men were condemned and led out to execution. St. Nicholas rushed to the spot, seized the sword, and saved the men. When the tribunes returned to Constantinople they were accused of treason, and thrown into prison. Remembering St. Nicholas, they called upon him, and he appeared to Constantine and ordered him to pardon them. He did so, and sent them to Myra with a beautiful copy of the Gospels for St. Nicholas, who became henceforth the Patron of Prisoners. He died in 326. His remains were afterwards moved to Bari. He is called Nicholas of Bari.

He is represented as a bishop, with three golden balls, or purses, as his attribute, notably in Raphael's "Ansidei Madonna," in the National Gallery.

NICHOLAS, ST. (of Tolentino). (10th September)

Was born about 1239, at St. Angelo, near Fermo. He very early in life became an Augustine friar, and was renowned for his extreme activity and austerity. Legend says that at his birth a star of great splendour shot from St. Angelo, and stood over Tolentino, where he afterwards lived. He never tasted animal food, and when, in his last illness, a dish of doves was set before him he spread his hand over them, and they flew away.

He is represented in the black habit of his order, a star on his breast, and holds a crucifix, wreathed with a lily.

A picture of him by Mazzolino is in the National Gallery, and others are in the churches of San Gimignano, where he is much revered.

NILUS, ST. (of Grotta Ferrata). (26th September)

A Greek of Tarentum, who in old age became a monk of the Order of St. Basil, and in a few years the head of his community. Driven from the east to the west of Italy by the invasions of the Saracens, he found a refuge at Monte Cassino, and afterwards at the Convent of St. Alexis, at Rome. In con-sequence of the horrors and outrages which attended the invasion of Italy by the Emperor Otho III. he fled to a lonely cavern near Frascati, over which arose in after years the magnificent Convent and Church of San Basilio of Grotta Ferrata. Here for centuries the Rule of St. Basil has been obeyed, and the Mass said in Greek. St. Nilus died, full of years and honours, in 1002.

Frescoes illustrating his life, by Domenichino, are in the chapel of St. Nilus, at Grotta Ferrata.

NORBERT, ST. (the Founder of the Premonstratensians). (6th June)

Born at Cologne, he was a kinsman of the Emperor Henry IV. His early years were spent at Court, in the pursuit of pleasure but, after a narrow escape from death in a storm, he sold his possessions and set out to preach repentance. After travelling through the north of France, and winning many followers, he had a vision in which the Virgin showed him a field (Pré Montré), where he established his Order of " Premonstratensians." The Rule was that of the Augustines, but the discipline more severe. St. Norbert became Archbishop of Magdeburg, and died in 1134. A story is told that one day at Mass, when he was about to drink from the consecrated cup, he saw in it a large venomous spider. He drank not-withstanding, and miraculously remained uninjured.

He is represented as an archbishop, sometimes preaching, sometimes holding a cup with a spider. His other attribute is a demon bound at his feet.

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