National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada

Annual Bulletin 3, 1979-1980

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Simone 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 Denis.

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 of angels:

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 Bonaventure, 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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