Saint Julian Bishop

Brief tour through some details of the painting

Saint Julian Bishop (Siglo XVII) by Unknown artistSanta Clara Museum

Native to the city of Cuenca (Spain), there are numerous hagiographical accounts of Saint Julian (1128-1208). He was a doctor in theology and philosophy at the University of Palencia, where he also taught.  

He dedicated a large part of his life to preaching the faith among Christians and Muslims in Burgos, Palencia, and Castile. Later he was appointed Bishop of Cuenca, the city where he died.

Referencing to his work as a bishop, he is represented with a white alb, pontifical cape, pectoral cross, and a miter on his head. Behind his head, it emanates a halo, which denotes the sanctity of this character.

At the foot of the saint there is another attribute with which he is usually recognized. It has to do with a pair of baskets, which, it is said, he himself made and sold to help the poor with the resulting money.

In the upper right corner of the painting, there is an inscription in red letters that, referencing to the identity of the Spanish saint, says the following: “S. JVLIAN OBISPO.”, translating as “S. JVLIAN BISHOP.”.

To one side of the saint, it is seeing the figure of a kneeling beggar. This man receives a coin that Julian offers him with his right hand. The opposite hand of the saint rests on the man’s head in a gesture of paternal caress.  

This action, as a whole, refers to the epithet of the saint: the almoner bishop. It also shows charity as the Christian virtue par excellence. This virtue actually had an intense promotion in colonial society after the Council of Trent (1545-1563).

Applying the same resource used to define the identity of Saint Julian, in the lower right corner of the painting there is an inscription in red letters that tells us the name of another figure of great importance on the canvas. 

She is Mariana de Jesús —also known as the Lily of Quito— a saint from Quito who lived in the second half of the 17th century.

According to various hagiographies that mention her, her religiosity, devotion, and sacrifice made her a role model for the population of Quito. 

In addition to the religious asceticism and bodily martyrdom she carried out in life, various popular traditions point out that it was thanks to her religiosity and sacrifice that Quito was saved from a series of earthquakes that hit the city, in 1645.

In this case, she is represented with the black habit that distinguishes the Jesuit order, to which she was linked. A white cloak covers her head.

Mariana directs her gaze to her left hand, in which she holds a skull, a baroque symbol of reflection before the awareness of the ephemeral nature of human life.

Thus, this painting showcases, as part of the same scene, two important religious figures who, in an attempt to promote a virtuous life among the nuns who inhabited the convent of Santa Clara, will serve as role models. 

Both characters represent, in this case, the values of faith, religiosity and charity, fundamental bases of the order.

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
Andrea 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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