The Maestro di Barga
Madonna Enthroned with Angels and Saints: Detail, Left panel with Saints Abundius and John the Baptist

Circa 1440
Tempera and gold on wood panel
Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome

John the Baptist wears his camel-skin tunic under a red and blue mantle. As is common in his images, he holds a long cross with a banderole bearing his words from John 1:29,36, ecce agnus dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi ("Behold the lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world").

The Italian inscription below identifies the other saint as sancto aconcio, a variant of "St. Abundius." This saint was a mansionarius, or sacristan, at St. Peter's, Rome, in the 6th century. According to Gregory the Great, a girl severely weakened by palsy crawled to him on her hands and knees and said St. Peter had sent her to be cured by him. He reached down, pulled her up, and she was fully cured (Dialogues, III, 25, c.f. Acta Sanctorum, April vol. 2, 214-15).

A sacristan is a lay person and would not wear the liturgical dalmatic and alb shown here because they are liturgical vestments. Nor would he be tonsured. But it was possible to move into the clergy after starting as a sacristan, as the bishop Paulinus of Nola had done in the fourth century (G. T. Ryan, 8).

The Roman Martyrology lists St. Abundius for April 14. In other documents his name has been garbled through the years to "Acontius," "Agoncius," and so on.

A different Abundius was a priest in Moslem Cordoba in the ninth century. Taken before the local judge, he fearlessly explained the Christian faith and denounced the official religion, for which he was condemned to be eaten by "dogs and beasts" on July 11, 892.1

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Photographed at the Pinacoteca Vaticana by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

1 See Eulogius of Toledo, Memorialis Sanctorum, chapter XII (Pat. Lat., CXV, 813-14). This Abundius is listed in the Martyrologium Romanum for July 11: Cordubae, in Hispania, sancti Abundii Presbyteri, qui, in persecutione Arabica, cum in Mahumetis [sic] sectam inveheretur, martyrio coronatus est. ("At Cordoba in Spain, [the natal day] of St. Abundius the Priest, who during the Arab persecution was crowned with martyrdom when he inveighed against the Mohammedan sect.")