By Ioannis Tzortzakakis

The Augustinian Saint Nicholas of Tolentino died on 10 September 1305 after a long illness. Since his canonization in 1446, Saint Nicholas of Tolentino has become the namesake of numerous churches around the globe and the patron saint for a variety of causes. 

Born as Nicholas Gurutti in 1245 in Sant’Angelo in Pontano, Italy, the young Nicholas entered the Order of the Hermits of St. Augustine (Ordine degli Eremitani di Sant’Agostino), after hearing the preaching of Reginaldo da Monterubbiano, Prior (local superior) of the Augustinian monastery in Sant’Angelo. Around 1274, he was sent to Tolentino, near his birthplace, after a vision he had. The town suffered from civil strife between the Guelphs, who supported the pope, and Ghibellines, who supported the Holy Roman Emperor, in their struggle for control of Italy.

The process of his canonization began in 1325 under Pope John XXII, but only ended in 1446 under the Augustinian Pope Eugenius IV. However, already since the middle of ‘300 he has been depicted with an aureola, as in the chapel of the Basilica of Tolentino. His relics (his arms) disappeared in the mid-15th century and were not found until 1926 at Tolentino, where are now preserved at the Chapel of the Holy Arms in the Shrine of Saint Nicholas in the same city.

Piero della Francesca, Saint Nicolas of Tolentino, 1455-1460, Oil and tempera on panel, 139,4 x 59,2 cm Milan, Museo Poldi Pezzoli.

Garofalo (Benvenuto Tisi da Garofalo), Saint Nicholas of Tolentino Reviving the Birds, ca. 1530, Oil on canvas, transferred from wood, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917.

Cappellone di San Nicola, Basilica di San Nicola da Tolentino, Tolentino, Italy.

Giovanni di Paolo, Saint Nicholas of Tolentino Saving a Shipwreck, 1457, Tempera and gold on panel with vertical grain, Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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