Today is the feast day of Saint Andrew, patron saint of Scotland.
However, the image we have chosen as our item of the month, whilst depicting Saint Andrew, does not feature the object commonly associated with him – the X-shaped cross on which (as one tradition suggests) he chose at his own request, deeming himself unworthy to be crucified on the same shaped cross as Jesus. During the early medieval period, however, Andrew was regularly depicted with the shape of cross shown here.
This work depicts Saint Andrew with Christ and Saint Longinus and is a reproduction of an engraving after Andrea Mantegna (c.1431-1506). As well as being the patron saint of Scotland, Andrew is closely associated with a number of countries and cities: one such city being Mantua.
Longinus is the name given in Christian tradition to the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus’s side on the cross and who later converted to Christianity. According to one tradition, Longinus carried relics of Jesus – including the Blood of Christ – to Mantua. Before his own martyrdom, Longinus was said to have buried these relics, and it was only through a vision of Saint Andrew that Mantuans later knew where they were. The Basilica of Sant’Andrea now stands on this spot.
One of the chapel houses of the Basilica houses the tomb of Mantegna. For over forty years he was court artist to Mantua’s Gonzaga family, producing works – akin to this one – that reflected the traditions and culture of the city itself.