ST. JOHN AND ST. AUGUSTINE

The church of S. Giovanni Evangelista (St. John the Evangelist), in Parma, is built with a dome-shaped cupola which Correggio filled with a fresco decoration. The subject is drawn from the life of the apostle whose name is given to the church: it is the vision of St. John on the isle of Patmos. Looking up into the dome, one seems to be looking directly into the open sky, upon the figure of Christ ascending into heaven. The apostles sit in a circle on the clouds, and beneath them the aged St. John kneels on the mountain top, gazing upwards upon the vision. The heavenly spaces are alive with angels, for, as Browning writes:—

"Correggio loves to mass, in rifts
Of heaven, his angel faces, orb on orb."

The little creatures are sporting among the clouds and, in the poet's phrase, "waiting to see some wonder momently grow out."

Where the dome rests upon the four arches which support it, are four triangular corner-pieces called pendentives, which also belong to Correggio's decorative plan. They are devoted respectively to the figures of the four Evangelists, each one accompanied by one of the four Fathers of the Church. The Christian Fathers were the men whose writings and teachings shaped the doctrines of the faith in the early centuries of our era. They interpreted for the people the meaning of the Scriptures and the Gospels.

The pendentive of our illustration contains St. John with St. Augustine. The two sit side by side, engaged in a discussion over the book which they hold together. St. John is young and beautiful, as the painters always represent him, except in the subject of the vision of Patmos. The face is perhaps less strong and the expression less exalted than in the lunette we have studied. There is a boyish eagerness in his manner. The symbolic eagle is beside him, peeping out from the folds of the drapery. St. Augustine is a handsome old man with finely cut features. To understand how well the figure fits his character, we must know something of his life.[16]

[16] The life of St. Augustine, also called St. Austin, is related in the Golden Legend. See Caxton's translation in the Temple Classics, vol. 5, page 44. Mrs. Jameson gives a condensed account of the life inSacred and Legendary Art, p. 303.

He was born in Numidia near the middle of the fourth century, and showed in his boyhood brilliant powers of mind. Without the help of any teacher he read and mastered all the books necessary to an education in the liberal arts. His mother, Monica, was a devout Christian, and sought to lead her son to a godly life. For a long time her efforts seemed in vain. Augustine would make no profession of the Christian faith, but rather indulged in youthful dissipations. His best quality was his love of study. He became a teacher of rhetoric, and pursued his vocation in one city and another, always dissatisfied with his life. At length, in his thirtieth year, he came to Milan, where he fell under the influence of Bishop Ambrose. Then followed a mighty struggle in his soul, and in the end he yielded himself joyfully as a disciple of Christ. On the occasion of his baptism was composed the hymn called the "Te Deum" which is still used in churches.

ST. JOHN AND ST. AUGUSTINE Church of S. Giovanni Evangelista, Parma 
ST. JOHN AND ST. AUGUSTINE 
Church of S. Giovanni Evangelista, Parma

Henceforth the life of Augustine was filled with Christian labors. After some ten years of devout living he became the bishop of Hippo (near Carthage) where he resided for thirty-five years, until his death in 430. All his stores of learning were devoted to the explanation of Christian theology. He wrote a great number of treatises refuting what he believed to be heresies, and setting forth what he considered the true doctrines of the faith. An old writer pronounced him "sweet in speech, wise in letters, and a noble worker in the labours of the church." In a book of "Confessions" he laid bare all his faults with great humility.

In our picture the good bishop is learning the truths of the faith from St. John, while a child-angel behind him holds his crosier and mitre. Allowing for the difference of ages, there is a certain resemblance between the two men, showing that they have in common a refined and sensitive nature, and an ardent temperament. The older man's face shows lines of thought and character.

St. John seems to be counting off the points of the discussion on his fingers: it may be that he is unfolding the doctrine of the Trinity. The bishop follows the argument slowly, imitating St. John's gesture with hesitating hands. What seems so clear to the eager young teacher requires much deliberation on the part of the learner. The old man knits his brows with an intent expression, striving to understand the mystery. The two earnest faces turned towards each other make an interesting contrast.