St. Cajetan: The Iconography

In Naples, Campania, St. Cajetan of Thiene, confessor and founder of the Clerks Regular. By his extraordinary faith in God he taught his companions to pursue the primitive form of apostolic living. Famous for his miracles, he was named among the saints by Pope Clement X. – Roman Martyrology for August 7

In 1542 St. Cajetan founded the Theatine order. Members lived together in evangelical poverty like monks but served in the world like parish priests. They wore cassocks, not monastic habits. Images of Cajetan always have him in a cassock with a high collar, as at right. In some he also has a white surplice and a stole, which priests wear when administering various sacraments to the laity. In rare cases he will be pictured in a biretta. a small, round skullcap worn by some Catholic clergy The images may also include a book, lily stalk, or crucifix. I know of only one image of the saint that departs from this pattern.

In two statues I have found online, he holds a heart in his hand.

The Acta Sanctorum (August vol. 2, 241) cites a number of documents, one by Cajetan himself, concerning a vision he had at Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome on Christmas Eve, 1517. While he was visiting the crèche the Virgin Mary handed him the Christ Child to hold in his arms. Many images show the saint receiving the child from his mother in this way (example). Others simply have him holding or kissing the child, as in the third picture at right.

Prepared in 2019 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University.

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St. Cajetan in his black cassock with the high collar. (See the description page.)


Tiepolo, The Apotheosis of St. Gaetano Thiene. Many images are like this in adding a white surplice and gold stole to the black cassock. (See the description page.)


In Gaetano Susali's statue St. Cajetan kisses the toe of the Christ Child. (See the description page.)

DATES

  • Feast day: August 7
  • Lived 1480-1547

NAMES

  • In Italian he is San Gaetano. Other languages, including English, have adapted his name from the Latin Cajetanus.
  • The full name he was born with was Gaetano dei Conti di Thiene.

HAGIOGRAPHY