February 22, 2012

Apropos of Symbols

Apropos of symbols (see two posts ago), here is a small bas-relief depicting a bearded semi-naked man (Venice Daily Photo) :

A door jamb depicting St. Jerome (Sestiere di Dorsoduro, Venice) Click to enlarge
The presence of some interpretative keys suggests that this figure represents St. Jerome: the skull, the crucifix, the lion, and his holding in his right hand a stone. In fact St. Jerome is often portrayed as a penitent, kneeling before the Crucifix and/or a skull—both of which are conventional props in the iconography of contemplatives—and holding a stone he uses to beat his breast. The wild animal reminds of an episode of St. Jerome’s life, when a lion became his devoted companion after the saint removed a thorn from his paw. Venice, as well as all European cities, is full of these little details. Learning to recognize them would be the first step towards a better understanding of our history and cultural identity.