Tilman Riemenschneider of the Day: Saint Stephen

Saint Stephen is the patron saint of deacons. Here he is pictured with his attributes of the stones used for his martyrdom and a book. Is he wearing a dalmatic? I think so. Perhaps those deacons who are reading this will be able to tell.

One of the features of Christian iconography that I find fascinating is the convention of portraying saints with the implements of their martyrdom. Saint Stephen as he is pictured here is serene, yet he died a terrible death and that death is remembered. Indeed, his life cannot be recalled, or his future glory celebrated, without reference to his death.

In this way, the image of a saint becomes a witness not merely to virtue or good works, but to the paschal mystery, for the saint has passed through suffering and death to life.

Stephen

2 comments

  1. Perhaps even more fascinating is the John the Baptist is frequently portrayed holding the symbol of his martyrdom – not the implement, but holding a plate on which is his own head, the obvious match of the head on his shoulders!

  2. Rita, these sculptures are so powerful……so beautiful. Personally, I like that the saints are depicted with the implements of their martyrdom….it makes the statues much easier to identify. If Stephen were depicted doing the work of a deacon, the staue/painting could be of anyone.

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