Gregory in Poland contacted me to ask if I would make available a new image of the Venerable Matt Talbot, as he owes his life to the (yet to be declared) saint and is using all his personal resources to publish prayer cards and spread the devotion over the web.
Matt Talbot is known as the saint in overalls, though I think that's a bit off the mark, since he is wearing a perfectly respectable working man's suit in the only photograph we have of him. And he made it his custom to appear very neat and tidy in public. It was a great privilege to research this remarkable story. Outwardly he lived a completely obscure working class life in Victorian and Edwardian Dublin, living quietly through rebellion and unrest, world war and civil war, as well as enduring the daily deprivations of a labourer's life in those harsh times. Only his sudden death in the street on the way to Mass one Sunday revealed the extraordinary 'real' life he led: he was found to be wearing chains under his clothes, those chains still to be seen among his relics. After taking the pledge in his late twenties, through a life of religious devotion and self-mortification he had overcome his alcoholic addiction, educated himself to read works of theology and spent his private life in prayer and contemplation. He is a champion for people around the world fighting addiction to alcohol and drugs.
The photograph in which Matt Talbot appears is a grainy sepia group picture, taken with his workmates in the workshop. His face enlarges to nothing but a smudge, but one can just make out a face in later middle age, bright eyes, a receding hairline, a copious moustache and a certain set of the chin. For the details of his earthly appearance, we have to rely nearly as much on inspiration as we do for his early Celtic predecessors, but the course of his life is much better attested.
Some art deserves to be less noticed, and I have to admit that sadly most of the contents of the Salzburg Cathedral Museum fall squarely into that category. Worse still, the reputedly magnificent apartments of the former prince-bishops were closed for restoration, so I found myself scooting past quantities of truly dire (but impressively large) canvases, an entire corridor of curiosity cabinets with several hundred years' worth of dead animals and other dusty relics in them, and various other forbidding remains, wondering whether the fabulously wealthy bishops of Salzburg were just less efficient than their contemporaries in looting the best religious art, or whether they preferred to keep their wealth at home and commission only from the locals at the expense of quality. But then in the very last display case (which displayed, unaccountably, a huge pair of Dutch clogs) I read a querulous note complaining of Nazi thefts and Allied bombings, which went some way to explaining it. But I spent time there, it being a cold January day, and a few things did catch my eye at random:-
The view from my desk
Current work, places and events, art travel, and interesting snippets about Christian icons, medieval art, manuscript illumination, egg tempera , gilding, technique and materials.