Less well known than the English Reformation or the French Revolution, it was an equally disastrous time for the Catholic Church.
As the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi approaches, here is a trace of the impression he left on the arts. His love of animals is a common feature of modern imagery, but his love of Christ is actually a more important tradition. Some paintings show Saint Francis renouncing the world (the globe under his feet) and embracing his Savior. Our Lord frees an arm to console the saint.
The supreme painter of this scene was the Spanish artist Murillo. He created this image and many other sacred images for the Capuchin Convent in Seville around 1668.
A brass plaque like the one below is said to have been taken away as a sacred memory by the many visitors who came to the convent to admire this work. It was almost certainly made before the 19th century, as that was when the “Spanish confiscation” really started. Less well known than the English Reformation or the French Revolution, it was an equally disastrous time for the Catholic Church. A large number of religious communities have been dissolved and their property taken by the state or destroyed. Environmental crimes have also been committed, including massive deforestation. Monastic buildings were often sold and transported stone by stone to the nouveau riche in America.
Art collections were also seized and are never returned, which happened to Murillo’s paintings for the Capuchins. They can now be found in the Seville Municipal Art Museum, which itself is a former convent. There is a cruel irony in the inscription of the painting, held in the air by angels. Taken from Luke 14:33, it says in Latin: “None of you can be my disciple without renouncing all that he has. “
The Virtual Museum of the Cross
This 18th century brass plaque comes from the collection of the Museum of the Cross, the first institution dedicated to the diversity of the most powerful and extensive symbol in history. After 10 years of preparation, the museum was almost ready to open; then came COVID-19. In the meantime, the virtual museum has opened an Instagram account to exchange with Aleteia readers and the stories of their own crucifixes: @crossXmuseum