Martini's St Catherine of Alexandria:
An Orvietan Altarpiece and the
Mystical Theology of St Bonaventureby Joel Brink
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25 The sermon is found in the Opera omnia (Quaracchi,
1882-1902), Tom. V; pp. 567-574. It appears in English in What Manner of Man?
Sermons on Christ by St. Bonaventure, trans. and intro. by Z. Hayes, O. F.
M. (Chicago: 1974), pp. 21-46. All quotations are taken from this translation.
The sermon is generally considered to have been the principium at
Bonaventure's inauguration as master of Paris. See J. G. Bougerol, O. F. M., Introduction to the Works of Bonaventure,
trans. by José de
Vinck (Paterson, N.J.: 1964), pp. 120-122.
26 Opera omnia, Tom. V; pp. 295-316, esp. Cap. IV; pp.
306-308. The sermon is also translated as "The Journey of the Mind to God"
by José de Vinck, The Works of Bonaventure, op. cit., pp.
5-58. All quotations are taken from Bonaventure, The Soul's journey into God - The Tree of Life - The Life of St. Francis,
trans. & intro. by E. Cousins (New York: 1978), pp.
87-93. See also the Introduction, pp. 12-27 which elaborates on the structure
and significance of the Itinerarium.
27 Bernard of Clairvaux, De consideratione, Vol.
V; c. 5, no.12. The passage is addressed to Pope Eugene III. The choirs
of angels are not explicitly named in this text but rather in the previous
passage. It is also true that Bernard juxtaposes the Principalities and
the Virtues as Pope Gregory the Great does in his Homilies on the Gospel,
34. St Bonaventure usually follows the order established by Dionysius;
see the Breviloquium II, 8; and ColIationes in Hexaemeron XXI,
20. See also note 29 below.
28 Similarly, St Bonaventure's summa of spiritual theology,
the De Triplici Via alias Incendium Amoris (The Triple Way or Love
Enkindled), contains a reference to the highest triad of angels in conjunction
with the internal mode of contemplation. In the Introduction to Chapter
III entitled "On Contemplation, Through Which True Wisdom is Attained," St Bonaventure states:
It is by means of contemplation that our spirit enters
the heavenly Jerusalem....Now, in glory, there is a three-fold gift which
constitutes the full reward: the eternal possession of supreme peace, the
clear vision of supreme truth, and the full enjoyment of supreme goodness
or love. Correspondingly, there is a three-fold distinction between the
highest hierarchies of heaven: that is, the Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim.
Whoever wishes to attain beatitude through his merits
must therefore conform himself to these three, as closely as is possible
in this state of wayfaring, in order to obtain the tranquility of peace,
the splendour of truth, and the sweetness of love. For in these three the
Lord Himself reposes, dwelling as in His own abode. Therefore, there are
three stairs leading up to these three goals, according to the triple way:
that is, the purgative way, which consists in the expulsion of sin; the
illuminative way, which consists in the imitation of Christ; and the purgative
way, which consists in union with the Spouse." (The Works of Bonaventure,
op. cit., p. 80.)
29 ColIationes in Hexaemeron, XXI, 20. See the Opera omnia,
Tom. V; p. 434 and E. Gilson, The Philosophy of St. Bonaventure,
op. cit., pp. 242-244. At the conclusion of St Bonaventure's Triplici
via (see note 28), the author inserts a subsection entitled "On the
Two Manners of Contemplating the Divine Mysteries." He states:
Note that our vision of truth must be elevated toward the
incomprehensible, that is, the mysteries of the Trinity most high,
to which we are raised in contemplation in two possible manners: one AFFIRMATIVE,
the other NEGATIVE. The first is that of Augustine, the second, that of
The latter method of Dionysius, he says, is "the most noble manner
of elevation." Again, the stages of as cent are marked by the nine choirs
Note that on the first level, truth is to be invoked. by sighs
and prayer, which pertains to the Angels; it is to be received by
study and reading, which pertains to the Archangels; it is to be
communicated by example and preaching, which pertains to the Principalities.
On the second level, truth is to be sought by recourse and dedication
to it, which pertains to the Powers; it is to be grasped by activity
and endeavor, which pertains to the Virtues; it is to be assimilated
by self-contempt and mortification, which pertains to the Dominations.
- On the third level, truth is to be adored by sacrifice and praise,
which pertains to the Thrones; it is to be admired in ecstasy and
contemplation, which pertains to the Cherubim; it is to be embraced
with caresses and love, which pertains to the Seraphim. Note these
things carefully, for they hold the fountain of life. (The Works of
op. cit., pp. 93-94)
30 J. G. Bougerol, op. cit., gives c. 1217 as St Bonaventure's
birth date and José de Vinck, op. cit., p. x, gives his birth
date as 1221.
Note: An early draft of this article was presented at the annual
meeting of the Universities Art Association of Canada in 1980. I am deeply
grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
for supporting my investigations in the form of a travel and research fellowship, and to the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto for
permitting me to use their excellent library. I am also indebted to Joan
Lacouture Brink for preparing the line drawings for this article.
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