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Art Theology

The Triumph of the Blessed Sacrament

In Evora, a small room in the parish church of Saint Mammes has a decorative ensemble that combines the tiles on the walls with the frescoes on the ceilings in a coherent iconographic program in praise of the Blessed Sacrament.

In Évora, a small room in the parish church of São Mamede has a decorative ensemble that combines the tiles on the walls with the frescoes on the ceilings in a coherent iconographic program.

Also painted by Gabriel del Barco and his collaborators, the program repeats that of Igreja de Santiago, in the same city, with three episodes of the prodigal son, and with two others of the life of Moses: The Prophet Brings Water from the Rock and the Bronze Serpent.

Another two panels define the main theme of the iconographic program, connected with the functions of the room as a meeting place for the brotherhood of the Blessed Sacrament. In the middle of the wall, the Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas, in glory with the Blessed Sacrament, was encircled by the personifications of the moral virtues of Hope and Religion and, following the lessons from Summa Theologiae, also for the four acts of virtue of religion: Prayer (hymn), Contemplation (wheat), Devotion (stork), and Holiness (keys of heaven).

On the opposite side, the panel depicts Jesus Christ, in a triumphant chariot, with the cross and the consecrated host. Reinforcing the sequence of the discourse, one of the personifications of the five senses holds the band with a verse of the hymn of the blessing: Praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui [Faith goes beyond the lack of our senses].

Gladius et Panis Eucharistia, c. 1700
The Eucharist is bread and sword – Gladius et Panis Eucharistia, c. 1700. © Miguel Cardoso, SNBCI.

Composed for the festivities of the Holy Spirit, the hymn Pange, Lingua, gloriosi is part of the Eucharistic ceremonial, also chanted when the sacred viaticum was brought to the sick, one of the main tasks of the brotherhood.

On the ceiling, besides the central theme of angels in adoration of the Holy Communion, there are represented the four cardinal virtues, fundamental for the definition of the sacrament of the Eucharist as a commitment to a moral path. The combination of moral virtues and supernatural virtues also reveals the deep sedimentation of Thomas Aquinas’ ethics that informs the iconographic program of the São Mamede church.

On the ceiling, four small cartouches with Latin verses were transposed into simple Eucharistic emblems. The Eucharist is bread and sword (bread and sword); My flowers are fruits of honor and honesty (flowers); Wherever the body is, there will be the joining of eagles (two eagles and sun); and the sacrament of love that is poured out for you (pelican wounding the breast to feed the young).

At the tops, two cartouches with the Latin verses: “Panem angelorum manducavit homo” and “factus cibus viatorum” resume the quotation of the words from the sacred hymns composed by Doctor Angelicus, in a clear manifestation of coherence of the entire iconographic program, associating the two decorative arts.

ESSENTIAL BIBLIOGRAPHY

MANGUCCI, Celso. “Sob o império da Retórica. Os programas iconográficos de Santiago e São Mamede de Évora” in Invenire. Revista de Bens Culturais da Igreja, nº 8, pp. 34-47, 2014.

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