St Luke

Mabuse – St Luke

October 18.–ST. LUKE.

My first thought, when St Luke is mentioned, is of him as a writer, leaving us the vivid pen-portraits in the gospel that bears his name and Acts.

However, tradition has it that he was not only a painter in words, but also a painter with brush and pigment; that he was the first icon painter. He is said to have painted pictures of the Virgin Mary and Child, in particular the miraculous image of our Lady known as Panagia Hodegetria (lost during the fall of Constantinople to the Turk).

“She who points the way”
12th-century plaque found in Torcello Cathedral; a full-length figure like the original in Constantinople

He was also said to have painted Saints Peter and Paul, and to have illustrated a gospel book with a full cycle of miniatures.

Late medieval Guilds of St Luke in the cities of Late Medieval Europe, especially Flanders, or the “Accademia di San Luca” (Academy of St. Luke) in Rome—imitated in many other European cities during the 16th century—gathered together and protected painters. The tradition that Luke painted icons of Mary and Jesus has been common, particularly in Eastern Orthodoxy. The tradition also has support from the Saint Thomas Christians of India who claim to still have one of the Theotokos icons that St. Luke painted and which St. Thomas brought to India.

From Butler:

ST. LUKE, a physician at Antioch, and a painter, became a convert of St. Paul, and afterwards his fellow-laborer. He is best known to us as the historian of the New Testament.

Though not an eye-witness of Our Lord’s life, the Evangelist diligently gathered information from the lips of the apostles, and wrote, as he tells us, all things in order.

The acts of the Apostles were written by this Evangelist as a sequel to his Gospel, bringing the history of the Church down to the first imprisonment of St. Paul at Rome.

The humble historian never names himself, but by his occasional use of “we” for “they” we are able to detect his presence in the scenes which he describes. We thus find that he sailed with St. Paul and Silas from Troas to Macedonia; stayed behind apparently for seven years at Philippi, and, lastly, shared the shipwreck and perils of the memorable voyage to Rome.

Here his own narrative ends, but from St. Paul’s Epistles we learn that St. Luke was his faithful companion to the end.

He died a martyr’s death some time afterwards in Achaia.

Reflection.–Christ has given all He had for thee; do thou give all thou hast for Him.

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6 Responses to St Luke

  1. Gargantua says:

    What must we think of artists’ paintings of those who had been gone for hundreds of years? Should we say “nice pic, shame about the authenticity”?

    I dunno myself.


  2. kathleen says:

    There is a tradition that St Luke was a painter and one of his pictures of the Blessed Virgin is related by Theodorus Lector as being sent from Jerusalem to the Empress Pulcheria at Constantinople. A very ancient inscription found in a vault near the Church of St. Mary in Via Lata in Rome relates that a picture of the BV was discovered there, “one of the seven painted by St. Luke”. One is an icon of the Virgin Mary attributed to St Luke, and is held in the Barghesian chapel in St Mary Mayor in Rome.


  3. The Raven says:


    I’m afraid that I’d mangled the text in the post, which meant that the image of Our Lady Hogeteria was missing. I have now fixed (DV).


  4. The Raven says:


    How delightful to hear from you! Grossaert indeed!


  5. kathleen says:

    Beautiful icon – thank you Raven.

    From St Luke comes the account of the circumstances leading to the conception and birth of Jesus (Luke 1-2). Perhaps St. Luke gathered the information from the Apostles, but I love to imagine he met and conversed with the Blessed Virgin Mary in person. Some of the most touching parables in the Gospel, such as that of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son; the words of Jesus during his Passion to the women of Jerusalem and the ‘Good Thief’ are unique to St. Luke. While presenting an all-or-nothing following of Jesus with an emphasis on radical simplicity of life, there is at the same time great emphasis on the compassionate nature of Jesus. He shows Jesus praying before every important phase of his public life and there is an openness to the Gentiles.

    Women figure more prominently in Luke’s gospel than in any of the others – the Virgin Mary, her cousin Elizabeth, the sisters Mary and Martha, the widow of Nain, and the striking story of the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee. In the Acts of the Apostles Luke is revealed as a very accurate observer, skillfully linking the sacred events with secular history. Many of his details have later been confirmed by archaeology.


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