Saint Louis Bertrand: The Iconography

In Valencia, Aragon, St. Louis Bertrand, of the Order of Preachers, Confessor, renowned for his apostolic spirit. He preached the Gospel to the Americans, and his many miracles testify to his sanctity (Roman Martyrology for October 9).

According to Butler (IV, 72-74), St. Louis Bertrand was a Dominican who lived in the sixteenth century and spent seven years preaching to the newly discovered indigenous nations of the Americas, in one of which the natives tried to poison him. After several days of intense agonies, he finally vomited up a snake and became well (Acta Sanctorum, October vol. 5, 321). Most of his life, however, was spent as master of novices in Valencia.

PORTRAITS

Because of the attempted poisoning, this saint is sometimes pictured with a chalice containing a snake, as at right. In a painting in the Gesuati the artist uses the chalice and snake to symbolize a time when he was raised from his depressed feelings by a voice from above (Rugolo, 137f, Acta Sanctorum, October vol. 5, 332).

Without the chalice or a helpful label it would be hard for a viewer to recognize him. Usually he wears the black and white Dominican habit pictured in the first image at right, but sometimes he is shown in a simple black cassock and surplice, as in the second picture. This can be worn by any cleric including acolytes. It would not be worn by Dominican novices, who wear the standard habit. He is usually beardless, but not always.

Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University

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St. Louis Bertrand with the poison cup (See description page)


The saint in a surplice (See description page)


Possibly another image of this saint (See description page)

DATES

  • Lived 1526-81
  • Feast day: October 9

NAMES

  • Known also by his Spanish name, San Luis Beltrán.

HAGIOGRAPHY