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An illustrated book of spiritual poetry by Gabriel Fiamma, Bishop of Chioggia.

Bishop Fiamma (1533 – 1585) was a famous Augustinian orator who preached throughout Italy. During this time, in the mid-16th century, protests against practices of the Roman Catholic Church were spreading across Northern Europe, from Germany to England. The Catholic Church’s response to the Protestant Reformation movement was the Council of Trent, held from 1545 to 1563. Convened by Pope Paul III, the Council defined a number of reforms that were meant to correct the “abuses” of the Church. Among the debated reforms was a decree that emphasized the necessity of preaching. According to scholars, that decree represented a shift in the preaching of sermons from simply teaching the Scripture, to a more conceptual kind of sermon that emphasized the teaching of morals. In 1562 Fiamma came under scrutiny by the Inquisition. After the commission examined his published writings they determined that he was of good faith and he was able to continue preaching for many more years.


Determining the bible scene for this example proved a bit difficult. At first look, we see the figure of Jesus standing at the front of a crowd. The perspective shows a cluster of buildings in the distance. One man in the foreground has a crutch. Another man sits on the ground before Jesus. He holds a crutch under his right arm, and seems to have either no left foot, or his foot curled to the side. A man stands behind him with his left palm extended. A group of others look on. Jesus stands with his palms open, one extended towards the man on the ground, and one raised, as if speaking. A triangular halo emanates from his head. At first it may seem that the man on the ground is crippled and that Christ has come to heal him. Looking to scripture, this might have been Christ healing the crippled man at Bethesda (John 5:1-16). But the surrounding scene wouldn’t make sense because there is no pool of water, which surely the artist would have included. A rough translation of the text on the right (from the Italian) reveals that this must be the scene from Luke 18:35-43, when Christ heals the blind beggar.

35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging; 36 and hearing a multitude going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped, and commanded him to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me receive my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he received his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.


Artwork in the public domain