Unlike the hiker, the pilgrim walks under the protection of a saint. In a superbly illustrated book which has just been published, essayist Robert Bared helps us to better understand 77 of these exemplary characters.
What distinguishes the hiker from the pilgrim? This is the question that was asked during the round table held on November 17, at Forum104 (Paris), as part of the “Of Paths and Men” cycle. Our three guests – Luc Adrian, Xavier Accart and Jean-Pierre Musialowski – responded in unison: “The pilgrim places himself under the protection of a saint, who gives meaning to his journey.”
Pilgrims will therefore happily welcome this magnificent book which has just been published, entitled The Saints. Spiritual adventure and representation. Its author, Robert Bared, historian of French literature and Western art, became familiar very early with one of these exemplary figures: “While I was doing my secondary studies in Lebanon, with the Jesuits, explains- he said, I made my first pilgrimage with my parish to the Maronite hermitage of Saint Charbel, in the mountain of Byblos.”
He also confides his emotional attachment to certain saints, such as Ignatius of Loyola or Thérèse of Lisieux. But beyond this personal inclination, his choice objectively fell on 77 saints, selected according to two main criteria: “the vivacity of their cult throughout the centuries and the notable presence in the history of art”.
Identify the saints
In this work, the pilgrim will find numerous keys which will allow him to recognize the saints represented throughout his route, through the statues, paintings or stained glass windows of churches and cathedrals: the apostles, of course, who often welcome the faithful under the porch of the sanctuaries, but also all the other saints with such diverse attributes, who embody the instrument of their martyrdom (the pincers of Apolline, the grill of Laurent, the ax of Denis), their function (the armor of Maurice d’Agaune, the doctor’s robe of Côme and Damien, the episcopal crosier of Nicolas de Bari) or one of their miracles (the beehive of Ambrose of Milan, the mule of Antony of Padua).
Others, finally, are recognizable by an attribute which illustrates the dream that their mother had (a white dog for Bernard de Clairvaux or a star on the forehead for Dominique) or, more literally, their first name or nickname (a lamp for Claire of Assisi, a rose for Rose of Lima, an ox for Saint Thomas Aquinas, nicknamed “mute ox” because of his apparent calm).
Learn more about the road saints
This book will also allow the pilgrim to better know the patron saints of travelers and to learn more about their lives. They have so many beautiful stories to tell us!
Christophe is undoubtedly the best known of them. According to a legend, this giant helped a child cross a torrent; and this child became so heavy that Christophe suddenly had the impression of carrying the whole world. Once he arrived on the other shore, Jesus revealed himself to him, telling him that he had indeed carried “the one who created the world”. This story made Saint Christopher (christophoros meaning, in Greek, “Christ-bearer”) the figure of the ferryman, and, by extension, the patron and protector of travelers.
This book presents us with another smuggler whose story could seem much less exemplary. Julien, one day surprising a man and a woman in their marital bed, took out his sword and killed them. He understood too late that it was his parents, and not his wife with a lover! To make amends, he decided to spend the rest of his life in penance: he settled near a river to help travelers reach the other bank. One day he took in a leper and gave him his own bed. This leper turned out to be Christ or someone sent from God, who declared to Julian that his sin was forgiven.
Roch is another patron of travelers. During a pilgrimage to Rome, he contracted the plague while treating plague victims. He then took refuge in a forest, near Montpellier, where a dog brought him a loaf of bread every day for food. This is why we see him represented as a pilgrim, with his staff, showing the wound on his knee. Sometimes, even sporting a shell, it resembles a pilgrim of Saint James.