By Jean Marie Carey

The 28th of August is the Feast Day of St. augustine of Hippo (354-430), from whom several Roman Catholic and Anglican orders take their name. He died on this day in 430 in Hippo Regius, Numidia, now Annaba, Algeria, and is the patron saint of theologians and brewers. The story of Augustine’s upbringing and conversion is well-known through his autobiographical Confessions (397-400). In that work, Augustine recounts his birth in 354 to his pagan father Patricius, and Catholic mother Monica – later St. Monica – in the city of Tagaste, Numidia, now Souk Ahras, Algeria.

Augustine traveled to Carthage as a teenager, and even after his father’s conversion to Catholicsim in 371, followed his own religious explorations as a Manichean and later a Platonist. Augustine became a professor of the liberal arts and befriended his contemporary, St. Jerome. The restless intellectual eventually was baptized by St. Ambrose on Easter in 387.

Augustine’s body was removed from its original resting place to Cagliari, Sardinia, and then to Pavia. His body arrived in Pavia around 720. In 1327, Pope John XXII issued a bull appointing the augustinians guardians of the tomb. Bonifacio Bottigella, the Bishop of Lodi, commissioned the monumental tomb to house augustine’s relics. It is decorated with 95 statues and 50 bas-reliefs; the decoration illustrates theological, cardinal, and monastic virtues, as well as scenes from the life of the saint.

Reference: Mary R. Reichardt. “St. Augustine.” Encyclopedia of Catholic Literature. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004.

Tomb of Saint Augustine, c. 1350. San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro, Pavia. Photo: Scala Archives.

Jacopo Tintoretto. The Miracle of Saint Augustine, 1549. Museo Civico di Vicenza, Vicenza. Image: Scala Archives.

Masolino da Panicale and assistants, c. 1428-1430, San Clemente, Rome, Italy. Chapel of St. Catherine; view showing the vault with the four evangelists and four doctors of the church (Gregory, Jerome, Augustine, and Ambrose). Photo: Scala Archives.

Francesco Botticini. Saint Monica Creates the Order of the Augustinian Nuns, 1471. Detail of predella showing St. Monica praying for the conversion of Augustine (left) and Augustine leaving for Rome (right). Bini Chapel, Santo Spirito, Florence, Italy. Photo: Scala Archives.

Ary Scheffer. Saint augustine and His Mother Saint Monica, 1855. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France. RF 241140-12-14/42.

Further Reading: Bernard Bangley. Butler’s Lives of the Saints: Concise, Modernized Edition. Brewster, Mass: Paraclete Press, 2005.

Margaret A. Tabor. The Saints in Art: With Their Attributes and Symbols Alphabetically Arranged. (Kindle Edition). Amazon Digital Services: Seattle, 2016.  

Rosa Giorgi. Saints in Art. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003.

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