Saint Hyacinth: The Iconography

In Cracow, Poland, the natal day Not his birthday but the day he died and went to Heaven of St. Hyacinth of the Order of Preachers, confessor, who was counted among the saints by Pope Clement VIII. However, his feast is celebrated on August 17th (Roman Martyrology for August 15).

This saint can be identified by his Dominican habit and by his attributes, a monstrance An open or transparent receptacle in which the consecrated Host is exposed for veneration — Google Definitions and a statue of the Virgin and Child. The attributes refer to a legend in which the saint was saying Mass in the chapel of a Kiev monastery that boasted a very large statue of the Madonna and Child, weighing four talents (perhaps about 300 pounds). Suddenly, his brother friars rushed in with the news that invading Tartars were breaking down the doors. Taking the Eucharistic host with him, Hyacinth started to flee from the chapel. But the Virgin Mary called out to him from the statue, "O Hyacinth my son, will you flee the hands of the Tartars and leave me and my son for them to break to pieces and trample?" He protested that the statue was far too heavy for him to carry, but Mary assured him that her son would reduce the weight. Thus, with the statue in one arm and the host in the other he escaped the chapel in time to save both — by means of a miraculous dry-shod run across the Dnieper River (Acta Sanctorum, August vol. 3, 317).

Because a host is small and would not register very well visually, most images place it in a "monstrance," the sunburst-shaped object in the first picture at right. There is no monstrance in the legend. In one santo that we know of, the saint carries a "ciborium," the covered, chalice-like container in which a priest stores the hosts that were not consumed during the Mass.

Another legend has it that the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Hyacinth while he was praying and said, "Hyacinth, my son, rejoice, for your prayers have been accepted and granted in the sight of my son, the Savior of all mankind. Whatever you ask in my name, I will obtain of him" (ibid., 315, 340). This vision is also the subject of some images (example), and it is the basis for the numerous miracles that the saint was said to have effected through the mediation of the Virgin (example).

St. Hyacinth was among the founding members of the Dominican Order in 1217 or 1218. He and some others established the first Dominican priory in Poland shortly thereafter and embarked on a rather successful campaign of evangelization (Butler, III, 339). He is especially revered in Poland. Judging from the locale of his images that we have photographed or visited online, his cult seems to have been promoted in Dominican parishes in Spain and its colonies.

Prepared in 2017 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University

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A Mexican santo of St. Hyacinth carrying the monstrance and statue (See the description page)


St. Hyacinth crossing the Dnieper (See the description page)

MORE IMAGES

  • 1738: Painting by Giambattista Piazzetta of Hyacinth with Saints Louis Bertrand and Vincent Ferrer.

DATES

  • Lived 1185-1257
  • Feast day: August 17

NAMES

  • In Spain and Latin America, San Jacinto

HAGIOGRAPHY