Saint Reparata: The Iconography

In Caesarea in Palestine, the passion of St. Reparata, Virgin and Martyr. During the reign of the Emperor Decius she refused to sacrifice to idols and was tortured with various kinds of torments and finally put to the sword. Then her soul was seen to leave her body and fly up to Heaven in the form of a dove. – Roman Martyrology for October 8

Images of this virgin martyr are not common, and of those that exist I have found only one that accords her an attribute specific to her story: In the statue by Arnolfo di Cambio at right she holds the pot of boiling lead that was poured over her in an attempt to persuade her to sacrifice to the gods. In other pictures she will have just a martyr's palm and/or a crown.

The crown also appears in the second and third pictures at right, and in an altarpiece by Bernardo Daddi. St. Reparata was not a queen, so the crown may simply be an additional symbol of her martyrdom. Or it is possible that its use as an attribute is due to a passage in a poem for the feast of the translation of her relics: "He placed on her head a beautiful tiara adorned with gems and emeralds."1

St. Reparata's Passio says nothing of her origin or her life before she was brought before a Roman governor by the name of Decius. He urged her to sacrifice to the gods and preserve her life, but she refused. After the incident of the boiling lead she was cast into a burning furnace. Neither of these tortures harmed her in the slightest, so Decius ordered her beheaded. When the head came off, a dove flew up from her neck.

Florence, Italy, venerated Reparata as its patron saint. In the later Middle Ages the city looked more to St. John the Baptist, but there is a fine altarpiece in the Cathedral Museum that has her and St. Zenobius flanking the Baptist.

Prepared in 2015 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University

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Arnolfo di Cambio, 1310 (See description page)


Statue by Andrea Pisano, 14th century (See description page)


Daddi, St. Reparata Before the Emperor Decius (See description page)

DATES

  • Lived in the 3rd century

PLACES

  • Medieval sources say St. Reparata was martyred in Caesarea Maritima, in Palestine.
  • Some sources say her relics were translated to Campania in Italy, others to Nice in France.
  • From the 7th to the 13th century she was the primary patron saint of Florence.

HAGIOGRAPHY

NOTES

1 Acta Sanctorum, October vol. 4, 28.