ST. MATTHEW AND ST. JEROME

The apostle Matthew was employed as a tax-gatherer in Jerusalem when he became a disciple of Jesus. He was sitting one day at the receipt of customs, when Jesus passed by and said unto him, "Follow me." "And he left all, rose up and followed him."[17] Soon after, the new disciple made a great feast for the Master, scandalizing the scribes and Pharisees by inviting guests of doubtful reputation. Matthew, however, had rightly judged the spirit of Jesus, who had come "not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Throughout the ministry of Jesus, Matthew remained a faithful disciple, but without distinguishing himself in any way. Evidently he had a thoughtful mind and a good memory. In his Gospel he reported very fully the Sermon on the Mount and many of the parables.

[17] St. Luke, chapter v., verse 28.

One of the pendentives of the cupola in the church of S. Giovanni Evangelista is devoted to St. Matthew in company with St. Jerome. The Evangelist turns from the open Gospel before him to speak to St. Jerome, who is occupied with his writing. A winged cherub, sitting on a cloud in front of him, supports his book with both outstretched arms. The cherub is St. Matthew's emblem, as the eagle is that of St. John. It is by this charming figure that the old masters represented the face of "a man," that is, the human face, in the "living creature" of Ezekiel's vision.[18] The symbol is appropriately applied to the first Evangelist because his Gospel emphasizes the humanity of Jesus.

[18] See also pages 34, 35.

The token of St. Jerome's identity is the cardinal's hat, held by an angel on the arch beside him. The two volumes on his lap, in addition to the scroll upon which he is engaged, show how busy has been the pen of this learned Father. As the old chronicler relates, "he never rested day ne night, but always read or wrote."[19]

[19] The life of St. Jerome is related in the Golden Legend. See Caxton's translation, in the Temple Classics, vol. v., page 199. Mrs. Jameson gives a condensed account of the same in Sacred and Legendary Art, page 280.

He came of a rich family, and received at Rome the best education afforded by his times. Like his contemporary, St. Augustine, he devoted all his scholarship to the service of the Christian faith. While St. Augustine's tastes were more philosophical, St. Jerome's were perhaps more for pure learning and the study of the classics. He made himself master of Hebrew and Greek, and his most valuable work was his translations. He rendered into Latin, which was the literary language of his day, the various books of the Old and New Testament, and this version became the authorized Bible or Vulgate.

ST. MATTHEW AND ST. JEROME Church of S. Giovanni Evangelista, Parma 
ST. MATTHEW AND ST. JEROME 
Church of S. Giovanni Evangelista, Parma

St. Jerome was a Dalmatian by birth, but in the course of his life he journeyed to many countries. Soon after his baptism, he visited Syria, to retrace the scenes of the life of Christ. He then retired to a desert, where he passed four years in penance and fasting, living in the companionship of wild beasts. Clothed in sackcloth, he spent his days in torture, struggling with temptation, and haunted by visions of demons.

At a later period of his life he was in Rome, where he gained an immense influence over fashionable women. Two of his converts here were Paula and Marcella, whose names are historical. Finally he returned to Palestine, and passed the remainder of his days in a monastery which he had founded in Bethlehem. He was a man of vehement nature, a violent partisan, and an untiring student.

Something of his character may be seen in the face of the old man of our picture, bending over his writing. He seems so absorbed in his task that he is entirely unconscious of his surroundings. The deep-set eyes, overhung by shaggy brows, are fixed intently on his scroll. From his association with St. Matthew, we may fancy that he is translating the first Gospel. The Evangelist, with his own volume before him, is supervising the work. He turns to the translator with an encouraging smile, and seems to dictate the words. St. Matthew's face is gentle and amiable, though not so strong as we are wont to imagine it. He is here represented in middle life, at about the age when called to discipleship.

As in the pendentive of St. John and St. Augustine, the angel figures add an element of beauty to the picture. Each one seems attracted by some distant object. The cherub holding St. Matthew's book looks towards the worshippers in the church. Some one in the congregation also seems to attract the attention of the angel with the cardinal's hat, and he smiles shyly, as if in reply to a gesture of admiration. His companion on the other arch turns his eyes towards the figures in the dome, where the apostles are enthroned on clouds. The playful little fellow on the clouds below St. Matthew's feet looks across at the sprites of the opposite pendentive.