About Saint Jerome
Stridon (near present-day Ljubljana) circa 347 – 420 near Bethlehem
Catholic saint, doctor of the church and one of the four Latin church fathers, with Saint Augustine, Saint Ambrose and Pope Gregory I.
Author of the definitive and officially promulgated Latin version of the Bible of the Roman Catholic Church, the so-called Vulgate which he translated from the Hebrew and from the Greek. Saint Jerome is one of the most voluminous writes of ancient Latin Christianity, second only to Saint Augustine.
In art Saint Jerome was a very popular subject, represented in a few diverse, but always easily recognizable ways:
- usually he is portrayed as an older man, half-bold, with a beard and a body that has suffered from his life as an anchorite;
- he can be shown as a half-naked hermit wearing a red tunica, or as a monk, or as a cardinal;
- traditional iconographic elements such as the cardinal’s hat, the cross, skull and bible, sometimes a lion, will always identify a saint as Saint Jerome;
- he can be represented writing in a study or having his vision of an angel or a trumpet appearing to him in a bare wilderness or finally we sometimes see him in the courtyard of a monastery, confronted with a lion.
Antonello da Messina, Ghirlandaio, Carpaccio, El Greco, Caravaggio, Dürer, Marinus van Reymerswaele. So many artists painted Saint Jerome in the most diverse, but always very moving, ways.
The representation of Saint Jerome as a cardinal or with a cardinal’s hat is of course erroneous: cardinals were not known until three centuries later than his time. Because the other Church Fathers held high positions in the Church (Augustine and Ambrose were bishops, Gregory a pope) and were represented in ecclesiastical costumes, and as Saint Jerome held a dignified office in the court of Pope Damascus I, it did seem fitting to picture him as a cardinal.