St. Charles Borromeo

St. Charles Borromeo, Cardinal, Bishop of Milan, and Confessor. He went to Heaven on the day before today. – Roman Martyrology for November 4

St. Charles Borromeo was archbishop of Milan in the 16th century. Narrative images mostly focus on his efforts for the diocese when it was struck by a famine in 1570 and a plague in 1576-78. He worked tirelessly night and day to bring relief to the poor, and during the plague he stayed in the city and worked day and night even when the governor and many of the clergy had fled.

But the images dwell on the spiritual significance of Borromeo's work. A typical example is at the top of this page, where he is administering the Eucharist to a plague victim while an angel serves as his acolyte. Similarly, in this painting —
St. Charles Borromeo Prays for the Plague-Stricken of Milan, in the New Cathedral, Salamanca, Spain. See the description page.
— we see the saint leading a procession to pray over those who have died from the plague. Indeed, from the various images in Europe one would get the impression that all he did for the poor was pray and give communion, but this would be a very false conclusion.

The saint is usually pictured with a thin, clean-shaven face and a thin but prominent nose. A few works, such as this one commemorate his leading role in the final session of the Council of Trent.

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


A stained glass of the saint's work for plague victims above the altar in a Brooklyn churh. See the description page for details and a larger photograph.


In a St. Nicholas altarpiece (See the description page.)

A 17th-century tondo in San Pietro, Venice. (See the description page.)


  • Lived 1538-84
  • Feast day: November 4