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The Saints In Art - D

( Originally Published 1908 )


DENIS, ST. (of France). DIONYSIES, ST. (the Areopagite). (Ital. SAN DIONISIO or DIONIGI.) (3rd October)

An extraordinary legend identifies these two saints, the Bishop of Paris in the third century with the convert of St. Paul ! It says that Dionysius became the first Bishop of Athens, and, after the martyrdom of St. Paul, was sent by St. Clement to France, with SS. Rusticus and Eleutherius as his fellow-workers. He settled in Paris, and sent missionaries throughout France, and even to Germany. He was accused to the Emperor Trajan, who sent a proconsul to Paris to arrest him, and he was beheaded, together with his two companions, and their bodies thrown to the wild beasts. But St. Denis rose to his feet, and, taking up his head, walked, angels singing by the way, to the Mount of Martyrs (Montmartre), where the three bodies were buried. He became the Patron Saint of the French Monarchy in the reign of King Dagobert, and his name the war-cry. The Neoplatonic writings " On the Celestial Hierarchy " were ascribed to him in the Middle Ages.

He is represented as a bishop, often carrying his head as his attribute, but several other less important saints are occasionally thus depicted.

With other saints in Ghirlandaio's picture in Accademia, Florence.

DIEGO, SAN (d'Alcala). (S. DIDACUS or DIDACE.) (13th November)

A Capuchin monk at Alcala, in Spain, in the fifteenth century. He was canonised at the request of Philip II. in 1588. Many miracles are recorded of him. He is said to have acted as cook to his monastery, and on one occasion, when detected giving away bread to the poor, on opening his tunic, the loaves were found converted to roses.


SAN DOMINGO). (4th August)

The Founder of the famous Dominican Order. He was born at Calaruga, in Castile, in 1170. Legend says that before his birth his mother dreamt that she brought forth a black and white dog, carrying in his mouth a burning torch. Also that at his christening his godmother saw a star descend from heaven and settle on his brow. After studying at Valencia, he assumed the habit of a canon of St. Augustine, and was soon distinguished for his learning and vigour. In 1207 he went to Rome, and obtained permission from the Pope to preach in the south of France against the Albigenses. There he disputed, and upheld the Church. What share he had in the actual crusade and suppression of the heretics is doubtful. St. Dominic joined to himself several other preachers, who went with him on his missions, and out of this association his Order sprang. During his stay in Languedoc he is said to have introduced the rosary, which had great influence in exciting the devotion of the people. In 1218 he came to Rome and instituted the Order of Dominican Nuns. He then founded convents in various cities of Europe, preaching with great enthusiasm till his death at Bologna, in I22I. Stories of St. Dominic's visions and miracles are numerous. When in Rome he had a vision of St. Peter and St. Paul, who gave him a staff and the Gospel, saying : " Go, and preach the word of GOD." When arguing with the Albigenses he threw his book into the flames, and it leaped up three times from the fire. One day as he sat with his friars in the refectory, with nothing to eat, two angels appeared to him, bringing food and wine. On more than one occasion he restored the dead to life. His Order is particularly distinguished in the history of art, for several friars belonging to it were themselves painters of the greatest merit, especially Fra Angelico and Fra Bartolomeo.

He is represented in the habit of his Order, black cloak over white tunic. Generally with a star on his forehead and a lily in his hand. Sometimes a dog with a flaming torch in its mouth is his attribute.

Frescoes by Fra Angelico in San Marco, Florence ; sculptures on his tomb at Bologna by Fra Guglielmo ; frescoes in Spanish Chapel, S. Maria Novella, Florence.

DONATUS, ST. (of Arezzo).

Of noble birth, he was educated with the Emperor Julian ; but when Julian apostatised to paganism Donatus took refuge at Arezzo, of which he became bishop. He and his companion, the monk Hilarion, performed many miracles, healing the sick, and exorcising demons. They both suffered martyrdom, Hilarion being scourged to death, and Donatus tortured and decapitated. Their bodies lie under the high altar of the cathedral, where their shrine has sculptures by Giovanni di Francesco of Arezzo and Betto di Francesco of Florence (1369-1375)

DOROTHEA, ST. (6th February)

A virgin martyr of the Greek Church. A native of Cappadocia. For her devotion to Christianity she was persecuted by Fabricius the Governor, tortured and imprisoned, but she was immovable, and was finally condemned to be beheaded. As she was led forth to die, a young man, Theophilus, mocked at her and said: "Send me some of the fruit and flowers from that garden you speak of, where you are going to your bride-groom ! " Dorothea smiled, and said : " Thy request is granted." When she was on the point of death an angel appeared beside her with a basket containing three apples and three roses, and she ordered them to be carried to Theophilus. He, greatly astonished, ate of the fruit, and became a servant of CHRIST, even to the death of martyrdom.

She is represented as young and beautiful, with roses as her distinguishing attribute, sometimes an attendant angel carries the flowers- and fruit.

DUNSTAN, ST. (19th May)

Born in 924, and educated at the Abbey of Glastonbury, where he became a monk. He was a favourite of King Athelstan, and Archbishop of Canterbury in the reign of Edgar. The important part he played in the history of the period is well known.

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