Amazing articles on just about every subject...

The Saints In Art - T

( Originally Published 1908 )

THECLA, ST. (Apocryphal N. T.). (23rd September)

A virgin and martyr, popular in very early times, and honoured in the Greek Church as the first female martyr. Legend relates that when St. Paul came to Iconium he preached in the house of Onesiphorus, and there a certain virgin, named Thecla, heard him from her window, and learnt the true Faith. Her lover, enraged, complained to the governor, who had St. Paul bound and thrown into prison. But Thecla bribed the jailers to admit her to the prison, where she continued to receive the apostle's teaching, till the governor ordered St. Paul to be scourged and driven out of the city, and Thecla to be burnt to death. But as the flames would not do her any hurt, she escaped, and went with St. Paul to Antioch. There she was thrown to the wild beasts, but they would not touch her, and she was released. She then continued her teaching, and wrought many miracles, so that the physicians lost all their patients. They accordingly hired men to attack her in the cavern among the mountains, where she dwelt, but just as her pursuers were about to take her, a rock suddenly opened. She entered, it closed upon her, and she was no more seen.

She is represented young, with a palm, often with the wild beasts.

THEODORE, ST. (9th November)

One of the Greek warrior saints. He was an officer in the army of the Emperor Licinius, became a Christian, and in his zeal set fire to the Temple of Cybele, and was beheaded, A.D. 300. He was the Patron of Venice till St. Mark became her tutelary Saint in the ninth century.

He is represented in armour, trampling on the dragon.

THERESA, ST. (I5th October)

Born at Avila, in Castile, in 1515. She was one of a large family, and, in her own story of her life, she tells how, at the age of eight or nine, she and a small brother, deeply impressed by reading the lives of the saints, set off on a begging expedition into the country of the Moors, in the hope of being captured by the Infidels, and martyred. After a chequered girlhood, she entered the Carmelite Convent at Avila at the age of twenty. She was a woman of extra-ordinary character, and great mental power, but with a fervid and somewhat morbid temperament. In middle age she set herself to reform the Carmelites, and before she died, in 1582, had founded seventeen new convents for women, and fifteen for men, all under her strict rule, and free from abuses.

She is represented in the Carmelite Habit, a white cloak over a brown tunic, with a scapulary.

THOMAS, ST. (Biblical). (Span. SAN TOMÉ.) (21st December)

According to tradition he preached the Gospel in the East, and founded a Christian Church in India, where he died a martyr, pierced with a lance. A popular legend tells that he was sent by CHRIST to King Gondoforus of the Indies, to build a palace for him. The King gave him much gold for the purpose, but St. Thomas spent it on the poor and sick. The King threatened the saint with death, but his brother, who had lately died, came to life again, and warned him that St. Thomas was a servant of God, and that he had seen in Paradise a beautiful heavenly palace prepared for the King there. His attribute, the builder's rule or square, is in allusion to this story. There is another legend that St. Thomas, who had not witnessed the Virgin's Ascension to Heaven, doubted the fact, and looking into her tomb found it empty. The Virgin, pitying his weakness, let down her girdle from Heaven that he might see it and believe. After many adventures the girdle ultimately came to Prato, in Italy, where it is preserved as a sacred relic.

When represented with the other apostles he is distinguished by his builder's rule ; and is easily recognised in pictures of the " In-credulity," and of the legend of the girdle.


Born probably at Rocca Secca, near Aquino, in Campania, in 1227. His family, Counts of Aquino, were illustrious, and he was related to the Emperor Frederick I. He was extra-ordinarily able from childhood, and showed great promise in his studies at a Benedictine school, and afterwards at the University of Naples. At the age of seventeen he assumed the habit of St. Dominic, much against his family's wish. But their efforts to restrain him were unavailing, and in argument he converted two of his sisters. He rose to be the greatest writer and teacher of his age, but extreme humility distinguished him to the last, and he refused all preferment in the Church. He died in the Cistercian Abbey at Fossa Nova, in 1274, where he was taken ill on his way to Naples. It is related of him that as he knelt before the crucifix CHRIST spoke to him, asking him what he desired, and St. Thomas replied " Thyself only, O LORD." His companion in Dante's " Paradiso," and sometimes in art, is his teacher in theology, St. Albertus Magnus, who was also a Dominican. It should be remembered that in his works he expressed the truths of revelation in the formule of the Greek philosophy, thus bringing the wisdom and the method of Aristotle into the service of the Church ; he attempted to sum up all accessible know-ledge, and to give it form as an organic whole. This is the meaning of the allegorical paintings of his apotheosis—e.g. the fresco in the Spanish Chapel in Santa Maria Novella at Florence.

He is represented in the Dominican habit, with book or pen, or the Host, and with a sun or a human eye on his breast.

THOMAS DE VILLANUEVA, ST. (18th September)

Archbishop of Valencia, called "the Almoner," born in 1448. He was an Augustine friar, remarkable for his extraordinary generosity to the poor and needy; so much so, that when he was canonised it was ordained that he should be represented with an open purse, instead of a crozier, in his hand.



In early times the Patron Saint of Pisa; superseded by St. Ranieri. According to the leg he was a noble Roman, who served in the guards of Nero, was converted by St. Paul, and died in 70.


A Dalmatian saint, probably legendary, who by his prayers delivered his native land from a devastating monster.

He is represented as a child overcoming the basilisk, by Carpaccio, in the Church of S. Giorgio degli Schiavoni at Venice.

Home | More Articles | Email: