Saint Jerome

Did you know the importance that Saint Jerome had on the colonial American religiosity? Join us and discover it with us.

By Santa Clara Museum

Anonymous work

Saint Jerome (Siglo XVII) by Unknown artistSanta Clara Museum

Born in Dalmatia in the fourth century and having studied in Rome and Constantinople, Saint Jerome is known for his studies of the Holy Scriptures and because he participated in important theological disputes of his time.

Seeking to expand his knowledge, he traveled to Antioch, where he fell ill. Legend says that, after a dream caused by his feverish state, Jerome secluded himself in a cave to do penance. 

The painting presented here portrays him during this episode. We see him, then, as a thin man with a bare chest, a white cloak on his hip, a long beard, and messy hair. 

With his left hand, he holds a crucifix, a sign of the mystical contemplation of the figure of Jesus. This act shows the Church's willingness to show the saint as an exemplary model, whose values and virtues were to be imitated. 

On the opposite hand, he carries a stone with which he mortified himself by beating his chest. This attribute comes from one of his Epistles, in which he relates how he wounded his chest incessantly throughout the night. 

Jerome is considered a doctor of the Church because he translated from Aramaic and ancient Greek into Latin the biblical texts canonically accepted by the Church: the Gospels, the Psalms, and the Old Testament. To show this labour, a book is represented next to the saint. 

Near to his legs, you can see the head of a lion, another of the attributes with which he is known. The presence of this animal has to do with the confusion between the figure of the Saints, Jerome and Gerasimus. 

Gerasimus, a hermit abbot from Asia Minor, saw a lion approaching him with a thorn stuck in one of his paws. Instead of fleeing, the man dedicated himself to healing the animal. Since then, the lion accompanied him as a faithful dog. 

In turn, in the image we see the representation of Saint Jerome in a dark and sober space. The natural spaces, common in this type of representation, emphasized the spirituality, religiosity and meditative state of the saint, reinforcing his anchorite version. 

Although during the Renaissance the saint was portrayed in his study, highlighting his theological and scholarly dedication through representations of a large number of books, with the Council of Trent and the Counter-Reformation, the emphasis was different. 

In America, Jerome became one of the pillars of the Catholic Reform, so it was decided to emphasize aspects of his figure, such as spirituality, interiority and religiosity. This image is, then, a sample of the most widespread iconographic formulas of the saint. 

Saint Jerome
Anonymous work
Oil on canvas
107 x 78 cm
17th century 

Credits: Story


Museum Director
María Constanza Toquica Clavijo

María Alejandra Malagón Quintero

Anamaría Torres Rodríguez
María Isabel Téllez Colmenares

Collection Management
Paula Ximena Guzmán López

Tanit Barragán Montilla

Jhonatan Chinchilla Pérez

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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