Saint Ambrose

Brief tour through some details of the painting

St. Ambrose by AnonymousColonial Museum

Saint Ambrose was born in the city of Triers (Belgium) around 340 CE. Member of a family of great social and economic recognition, he was educated in law and rhetoric. This allowed him to serve as the ruler of the Roman provinces of Liguria and Emilia. Despite his interest in politics, this saint is recognized mainly for his religious life and intellectual activity.

The importance attributed to Saint Ambrose for his contributions to the development of Catholic theology can be seen in this oil painting based on an engraving by Gottfried Berhand Götz, a German artist of the 18th century. The composition represents the saint as an elderly man who, in a meditative attitude, holds a pen in one of his hands. Both Ambrose’s bodily disposition and his writing tool, account for his work as a writer, philosopher and theologian, roles that would lead him to be considered one of the Fathers of the Church.

Just above the back of the chair in which the portrayed saint sits we see a cross and the bishop’s tiara. These elements symbolize the position that Ambrose held within the ecclesial hierarchy, since he was appointed bishop of Milan.

As bishop, the saint fought against Arianism, a doctrine according to which Jesus Christ lacked divine nature. Considered heretical by the Council of Nicaea (325 CE), the Arian doctrine denied the dogma of the Trinity.

The whip seen in the lower left segment of the painting symbolizes this anti-heretical struggle.

As it is told, Saint Ambrose took part in the conversion of Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE), who led a life far removed from Christian morality. As a symbol of this battle against sin, the oil painting shows a serpent swallowing a sinner.

The last of the symbols that stand next to the saint, the honeycomb located in the center of the lower segment, alludes to a supposed miracle that occurred when Ambrose was just a child. According to the stories of his life, a swarm settled on the head of the child, the bees went out and in by his mouth without causing him any damage.

Credits: Story

Museum Director
María Constanza Toquica Clavijo
Manuel Amaya Quintero
Anamaría Torres Rodríguez
María Isabel Téllez Colmenares
Collection Management
Paula Ximena Guzmán López
Tanit Barragán Montilla
Valentina Bastidas Cano

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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