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Erasmus, Saint

bishop medieval martyrdom art

Little historical information is known about the bishop of Formiae, Erasmus although he is a very popular figure in medieval art. Perhaps because of a confusion with a bishop Erasmus of Antioch, his legend describes his escape from Syria to Italy to avoid the persecutions of Diocletian (after having been tortured by being rolled in pitch and set on fire), his journey by boat, guided by an *angel, across the Mediterranean, and his eventual *martyrdom by having his intestines wound out on a windlass. Erasmus is the patron *saint of sailors, and the tradition that he preached in a thunder-and-lightning storm gave rise to the designation “Saint Elmo’s Fire” for the Page 80  lights (electrical discharges) often seen on ships’ mastheads after storms. He is represented in art as a bishop, may hold a small ship, or may be depicted nude apart from his mitre while being disembowelled in a reclining position surrounded by several assailants in an interior or landscape setting. Scenes of Erasmus’s martyrdom appear in eighth-century frescoes and with some frequency in later medieval hagiographic manuscripts and Books of Hours
Eratosthenes (of Cyrene) [next] [back] Erasmus, Desiderius (1466/1469–1536) - BIOGRAPHY,  , CRITICAL RECEPTION

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