13 July – Feast Day of Blessed Jacobus of Voragine, Author of the Golden Legend

St. Christopher, Guardian of Safe Journeys, from Jacobus' Golden Legend

St. Christopher, Guardian of Safe Journeys, from Jacobus' Golden Legend

Hard to imagine the history of Western Art without the participation of this thirteenth century inadvertent writer.  Jacobus was archbishop of Genoa, which would provide him a small place in Italian Church history, but inarguably his greatest gift to us was his compilation of the lives and legends of the saints, in the text popularly known as the Golden Legend. Not a properly readable set of stories, it serves more as a gathering of seeds for sermons and other oratory. The tales range from the sublime to the most fanciful, with gruesome helpings of misogyny and antisemitism (perfect mirror of its age).

If you ever wondered why those saints in Gothic and Rennaisance art and architecture are occupied with odd tasks, or are carrying curious artifacts, the Golden Legend is your key. Jacobus’ writings provided the visual clues to religious compositions for centuries.
As a footnote to St. Christopher, above, herewith a short poem I wrote comoing home last night from the Ford Amphithetre and Gregorio Luke’s presentation on Rufino Tamayo:

Dragging east along Hollywood

Big chunk of moon hanging low

under the Bronson Street sign.

It was: Take the moon or take the freeway.

I hooked a quick right onto the 101

Under a falling star, home to my baby,

Who fell asleep

Praying I would get home safe.


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