Gregory, Saint

(Gregory the Great; c. 540-604)
    St. Gregory was the son of a wealthy Roman patrician. He acted as prefect of Rome until 574 when he converted his home into a monastery (St. Andrew) and became a monk. In 578, Pope Pelagius II appointed him one of the seven papal deacons. Pelagius died of the plague in 590 and Gregory was elected in his place. Well known for his charitable acts, Gregory negotiated peace with the Lombards and persuaded them to spare Rome from invasion. He effected the conversion of England to Christianity and was among the first to assert the supreme authority of the papacy. Gregory was the author of various treatises, most notably the Dialogues, which relates the lives of Italian saints as well as visions and miracles. The Gregorian chant is a product of his additions to church liturgy. Considered one of the Latin Doctors of the Church, Gregory was canonized by public demand immediately upon his death. He is included among the Doctors of the Church in the lower panels of the east doors of the Baptistery of Florence, executed by Lorenzo Ghiberti in 1403-1424. He is also the subject of Andrea Sacchi's St. Gregory and the Miracle of the Corporal (1625-1626; Vatican, Pinacoteca) where the cloth used to wipe the chalice bleeds when he pierces it with a dagger and a be-wildered nonbeliever sinks to his knees as he witnesses the miraculous event. Francisco de Zurbarán rendered Gregory (1626-1627; Seville, Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes) standing against a dark background wearing his ecclesiastic vestments and reading from an illuminated manuscript, the ideal picture of the scholar saint.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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