The flaming heart

October 7, 2014


Following my recent post about devotion to the Sacred Heart, and my aesthetic difficulties with some of the images related to that devotion, Janet has very kindly been searching for less objectionable ones, and she turned up this image of St. Augustine holding a flaming heart. I don’t know if this is, technically, His Sacred Heart, but it’ll do. I really like this image. It is a window in St. Thomas’ church in Oxford — though neither Janet nor I are sure if that means St. Thomas the Martyr, or some other church dedicated to St. Thomas, if there is one.

In his book, Love’s Sacred Order, Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis writes about this image (or ones like unto it):

…traditional iconography has represented Augustine as the mitered bishop with the intense gaze, holding out to us in his hand . . . a flaming heart. Mitered head and flaming heart:  an eloquent icon of what an authoritative teacher and shepherd after Christ’s heart should be–a mouth teaching without compromise the full truth handed down by Christ through the Church, and yet a truth intended not so much for codification as for burning up the world with love.

A suitable text, given the events in Rome this week. Thanks, Janet.


7 Responses to “The flaming heart”

  1. KathyB Says:

    It seems to me that you are looking for images of the sacred heart that have a more medieval aesthetic – and such images aren’t easy to come by since this particular devotion wasn’t established until later. If you do a Google image search, you can find Icons of the Sacred Heart in Byzantine style. I also found this one that I like, but couldn’t find any info about who made it or when:

  2. cburrell Says:

    Thanks, Kathy. You’re right about my taste for medieval, or faux-medieval, art. I quite like the picture you found. He seems to be gesturing toward something embroidered on his clothing, rather than to his actual physical heart. I love the detail work throughout. I also can’t discover who painted it.

  3. Janet Says:

    That looks very Northern European to me–like van Eyck, but not.


  4. cburrell Says:

    Yes, that’s exactly right, Janet. And the face-on posture reminds me of an icon, though obviously the overall style does not.

  5. KathyB Says:

    My guess is that it is either a pre-raphaelite or modern artist who is imitating van Eyck, not only in the general style, but also in the use of “disguised symbolism”, which is the art historical term for painting hints as to the meaning of the picture. The embroidered heart is a perfect example of this – an allusion on Jesus’ robe to the real sacred heart hidden underneath. I also like the Virgin and child hidden in the belt buckle.

  6. Janet Says:

    You know, I don’t know what the events in Rome this week were? I feel so stupid.


  7. cburrell Says:

    Kathy, I also noticed that belt buckle. It’s exactly the sort of thing that I would expect Christ the King to wear.

    Janet, you’re being too hard on yourself. It’s the ‘Synod on Families’. I’m sort of glad that you’re not aware that it is happening.

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