Saint Severinus of Noricum: The Iconography

In Noricum, St. Severinus, Abbot. He spread the Gospel among the people of that region and is called the Apostle of Noricum. His body was miraculously transported to Luculanum, near Naples in Campania. Later it was translated to the monastery of St. Severin [in Naples] – Roman Martyrology for January 8

St. Severinus lived in the fifth century. After many years as a hermit in the East he set out to preach the faith in Noricum (roughly, present-day Austria and Slovenia). He gained many converts, became famous for miraculous cures, and established a number of monasteries. But even amid all this activity he spent a good deal of time in contemplative retreat.

Noricum at this time was continually beset by barbarian invaders, and many of the episodes in Severinus's vita involve his defeating them through his prayers, his exhortations to the Norici (called "Romans" in the vita) to pray with him, and his insight into the enemies' movements. In this picture, for example —
Painting in St. Stephen's Cathedral, Passau, Germany. Follow this link for a discussion of the image and its meaning.
he is surrounded by the people of Salzburg, whom he had urged to flee the town before the Heruli came and sacked it.

This saint does not have any fixed attributes. The spear in the second picture at right may have arisen from a misunderstanding of some other picture with a crozier, though I have not seen such a picture. And the dog in the first picture is a puzzlement. No dog appears in the vita, and it is unimaginable that a man of such austere living would keep a dog as a pet.

Prepared in 2018 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University.

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A 19th-century portrait of St. Severinus. (See the description page.)


Passau Cathedral identifies this statue as St. Severin, though it is inconsistent in some ways with his vita. See the description page for a discussion.)

DATES

  • Feast day: January 8
  • Died circa 476-482

NAMES

  • Severin in German, Séverin in French

HAGIOGRAPHY