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The Saints In Art - P

( Originally Published 1908 )

PANTALEON, ST. (Patron of Physicians). (27th July)

Born at Nicomedia, in Bithynia, he became, according to tradition, while still a young man, the favourite physician of the Emperor Galerius Maximian. In childhood he had been taught Christianity by his mother, and Hermolaus, an old priest, continued to instruct him. He made no attempt to escape persecution, but went about, healing the sick, and working wonders, till he was accused, bound to an olive-tree, and be-headed.

He is represented in Venetian art in the long robe of a physician, sometimes with an olive instead of a palm branch in his hand, or bound to an olive-tree.

PAUL, ST. (Biblical). (25th January ; 29th-30th June)

Usually illustrations are of events in his life recorded in the Bible. There is an old tradition that at the time of his conversion (a very favourite subject) he was on horse-back. While in Rome various miracles are attributed to him, and his meeting with St. Peter there is often represented (see ST. PETER). According to tradition, the two apostles suffered martyrdom at the same time, but, St. Paul, being a Roman citizen, was not crucified, but was beheaded outside the Ostian Gate. A legend says that on his way thither he passed Plautilla, a convert, who wept, and asked his blessing. He bade her farewell, and asked for her veil, to bind his eyes during his execution, saying that he would return it after his death. The attendants mocked, but he appeared to her after his martyrdom and returned the bloodstained veil. It is also related that his head, after it was cut off, touched the ground three times, and in each spot a well of water sprang up; hence, the place is called "Tre Fontane" to this day.

He is represented as short, with a brown beard, high forehead, and aquiline nose, holding a book and a sword. Often with St. Peter.

PAUL, ST. (the Hermit). (See ST. ANTHONY, the Hermit.)

PETER, ST. (Biblical). (Ital. SAN PIETRO or PIERO ; Fr. ST. PIERRE ; Span. SAN PEDRO.) (18th January and 29th June)

Beyond what is told of St. Peter in the Bible innumerable legends exist. Some of the most important are connected with Simon Magus. When the miracles of St. Peter had brought to naught the sorceries of Simon, the magician fled to Rome, where he became a favourite of the Emperor. St.Peter followed him, and was joined there by St. Paul. When Simon falsely accused the Apostles before Nero they challenged him to raise a dead boy to life, and on his failure St. Peter performed the miracle. Finally, when Simon, having undertaken to fly up to heaven, remained hanging in the air, supported by demons, at the command of St. Peter they let go, and he fell dead. During the persecutions which followed the burning of Rome the Christians besought St. Peter to leave the city, and he at length consented. As he went along the Appian Way he met CHRIST, walking towards Rome, and said : "Domine, quo vadis ? " (LORD, whither goest thou ?) The reply was : " I go to Rome, to be crucified afresh." St. Peter took this as a sign that he was to return and suffer all things, and at once obeyed. Together with St. Paul, he was imprisoned in the Mamertine dungeon, where their custodians, SS. Processus and Martinian, and many of the criminals, were converted and baptised. Soon after they were condemned to death, and St. Peter was crucified, with his head downwards, either in the Circus of Caligula or in the courtyard of the barracks of the Janiculum. According to legend, St. Peter's daughter, Petronilla, accompanied him to Rome, and there fell ill. The disciples wondered that the Apostle, who healed many, did not heal his own daughter, but he said : " It is good for her to be so"; and to show the power of GOD he raised her up. She served them at table, but lay down again, and so remained for many years. At length, "perfect through suffering," she recovered, and Valerius Flaccus, a rich young Roman, wished to marry her. He was so powerful that she feared to refuse him, and told him to go away, and return in three days, during which time, in answer to her ardent prayers, she died, and was carried to the grave, crowned with roses. According to a widely accepted tradition, St. Peter is regarded by many as the first Bishop of Rome.

St. Peter is generally represented as an old man, with a short grey beard ; often with the keys, or a book, cross, or fish ; sometimes as Pope, with the tiara or triple crown ; sometimes as the Doorkeeper of Heaven.

Frescoes by Massaccio and others in the Carmine, Florence ; by Raphael in the Stanze, Vatican ; by Michaelangelo in the Capella Paolina ; by Perugino in Capella Sistina, Rome.

PETER, ST. (of Alcantara). (19th October)

A Franciscan friar, born at Alcantara in Estramadura, in Portugal, in 1499 ; he died in 1562. Legend says that through faith he walked on the sea, and in pictures he is sometimes represented as so doing.


Two Roman martyrs, who suffered in the last persecution under Diocletian. They were thrown into prison, where they converted their jailer, his family, and many prisoners. They were beheaded at the same time, in a forest three miles from Rome, and are always represented together.


Born at Verona about 1205. When a boy of fifteen he became an apt disciple of St. Dominic, who was preaching at Verona, and assumed the habit of his Order. He became a celebrated preacher, and, being especially zealous against the heretical sect of the Cathari, he was appointed Inquisitor-General by Pope Honorius III. Some of his enemies became exasperated at his in-tolerant persecutions, and hired assassins to murder him in a wood on his way from Como to Milan. One of the assassins struck him on the head with an axe, and then pursued the lay brother who was with him. When they returned, St. Peter had risen to his knees, and was reciting the Apostles' Creed, or, according to one account, had written "Credo" with his blood on the ground. They then pierced him with the sword.

He is represented in the Dominican habit, with an axe or a large knife struck into his head, or with a bleeding gash in his head, and carries a palm.

His portrait in fresco by Fra Angelico, in San Marco, Florence. Picture, attributed to Bellini, in National Gallery. His shrine, by Balduccio, is in Sant' Eustorgio, Milan.

PETER NOLASCO, ST. (31st January)

The son of a nobleman of Languedoc, and one of the converts of St. John de Matha, (q.v.), in imitation of whom he founded the " Order of Our Lady of Mercy," for the deliverance of captives and prisoners for debt. The rest of his long life, till his death in 1258, was spent in expeditions to Africa and the part of Spain then under the dominion of the Moors, whence he re-turned with hundreds of redeemed slaves. His Order, at first military, consisting of knights and gentlemen, afterwards became strictly religious, and obtained the canonisation of their founder in 1628.

He is represented as an aged man, in a white habit ; bearing on his breast the arms of King James of Aragon, the badge of his Order.

PETRONILLA, ST. (See ST. PETER.) (31st May)

PETRONIUS, ST. (Bishop and Patron Saint of Bologna). (4th October)

He was by birth a Roman, who early in life became a Christian. He banished the Arians from Bologna, and died in 430.

Represented as a bishop, often with a model of Bologna in his hand.

PHILIP, ST. (Ital. FILIPPO) (Biblical.) (1st May)

According to tradition he preached the Gospel in Scythia and Phrygia. There he exorcised, in the name of the Cross, a dragon or serpent worshipped by the people. The priests bound and crucified him—according to Greek legend, head downwards.

He is represented with a cross, or a staff with a small cross on it.

PHILIP BENOZZI, ST. (23rd August)

The chief saint of the Order of "Pad ri Serviti," a community founded by seven noble Florentines in the thirteenth century. He was a physician, but retired to the convent at Monte Senario, near Florence, and died General of the Order, in 1285.

Frescoes illustrating his life by Andrea del Sarto are in the court of S. Annunziata, Florence.

PHILIP NERI, ST. (26th May)

Born in 1515. He was an intimate friend of St. Charles Borromeo, and the Founder of the Oratorians, a community devoted to works of charity.

PHOCAS, ST. (Ital. SAN FOCA). (3rd July)

He dwelt outside the gate of Sinope, in Pontus, at the end of the third century. There, with prayer and contemplation, he cultivated a garden, and gave the produce to the poor. One night, as he sat at supper, some strangers came in, and, as he kept open house, he made them welcome, and then asked them why they had come. They said to find a certain Phocas, whom they were commissioned to kill. He said nothing, but gave them a night's lodging ; and, while they were asleep, went out, and dug a grave in his garden among the flowers. In the morning he told his guests that Phocas was found, and insisted on their beheading him at the grave, and they buried him there.

In Byzantine art he is represented as an aged man, a gardener, with a spade.

PLACIDUS, ST. (See ST. BENEDICT.) (5th October)

PRAXEDES and PUDENTIANA, SS. (21st July and 19th May)

Two daughters of the Roman patrician, Pudens, with whom St. Peter lodged. The whole family became Christians, and after a time the sisters inherited their entire fortune. During the first great persecution under Nero they comforted and encouraged the martyrs, ministering to them in prison, and giving them burial after death. They themselves escaped the dangers by which they were surrounded, and at length died, after distributing their remaining possessions to the poor. Their churches are among the most interesting and well known in Rome.

PRISCA, ST. (18th January)

According to legend was a noble Roman virgin, who, at the age of thirteen, was exposed in the Amphitheatre. A fierce lion, when let loose upon her, to the amazement of all, licked her feet, and she was taken back to prison and beheaded. It is said that an eagle watched over her body till it was buried, hence she is sometimes represented with an eagle, as well as a lion.

PROCESSUS, ST. (the Centurion at the Mamertine Prison). (See ST. PETER.) (2nd July)


A King of Bohemia, who gave up his crown, and became a hermit, living unknown for years ; at length he was discovered by a prince, who was hunting a stag, which took refuge in his arms.

PROCULUS, ST. (the Military Patron of Bologna)

He was a soldier, who killed with an axe the emissary sent to Bologna by the Emperor Maximin, to inflict persecution on the Christians, and afterwards suffered martyrdom.

In pictures by artists of Bologna he is represented as a soldier, with an axe, or carrying a head.


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