James (Jacobus) de Voragine, 1228/1230-13.07.1298,

Hugh (Hugo) Ripolinus, ca. 1210-ca. 1270,

and their influence on the painting the Mystic Lamb

by Hubert and Jan van Eyck, (1432).


A brief description

and biographies.


The Ghent altarpiece Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (Dutch: Het Lam Gods), completed 1432, is a very large and complex polyptichon, commissioned by the wealthy merchant and financier Joost Vijdt, executed by Hubert and Jan van Eyck. It is in the Joost Vijdt chapel in the Saint Bavon Cathedral, Ghent.


The altarpiece consists of twelve panels in two rows, eight of which painted on both sides. The upper row on the front shows Christ the King surrounded by the Blessed Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. The insides of the wings represent angels singing and making music, and on the outside Adam and Eve. The lower part of the front panel shows the adoration of the Lamb of God, with people streaming in to worship, overseen by the dove representing the Holy Spirit. On week days the panels were closed, showing the Annunciation of Mary and portraits of Joost Vijdt and his wife Lysbette Borluut.


There used to be a notice on the altar stating that Hubert van Eyck "maior quo nemo repertus" (greater than anyone) started the altarpiece, but that Jan van Eyck - calling himself "arte secundus" (second best in the art) - finished it in 1432.


The original lower left panel known as The Just Judges was stolen in 1934. The original panel has never been found and has been replaced by a copy made in 1945 by Jef Vanderveken.


Middle panel: The adoration of the lamb.

The lamb can be seen standing on an altar in the middle of the panel. In front of the altar is the fountain of life. To the left there are twelve prophets, the patriarchs, the holy bishops and the confessors. To the right are the twelve apostles. Barnabas, together with other saints and martyrs are in the background. A group of holy virgins is walking towards the altar. The landscape shows a treasure of plants, flowers and trees with such detail that to his day herbologists can determine their names. Other exotic trees were painted by Jan van Eyck after his visit of Portugal.


Experts mean that Hubert and Jan van Eyck were inspired for the design of their painting by the Legenda Aurea of James (Jacobus) de Voragine, O.P. (1228/1230-14.07.1298), and the Compendium Theologiae Veritatis
by Hugh (Hugo) Ripolinus (Ripelin, ca. 1210-ca. 1270). 


Belgium 1986, Mi 2250, Sc B1051. Maximum Card.


Jaime de Voragine.


James (Jacobus or Jacopo) de Voragine, also di Viraggio, was born at Viraggio (now Varazze), near Genoa, about 1230; In 1244 he entered the Order of St. Dominic, and soon became famous for his piety, learning, and zeal in the care of souls. His fame as a preacher spread throughout Italy, and he was called upon to preach from the most celebrated pulpits of Lombardy. After teaching Holy Scripture and theology in various houses of his order in Northern Italy, he was elected provincial of Lombardy in 1267, holding this office until 1286, in which year he become definitor of the Lombard province of Dominicans. In the latter capacity he attended a chapter at Lucca in 1288, and another at Ferrara, in 1290. In 1288 he was commissioned by Pope Nicholas IV to free the Genoese from the ban of the Church, which they had incurred for assisting the Sicilians in their revolt against the King of Naples. When Archbishop Charles Bernard of Genoa died, in 1286, the metropolitan chapter of Genoa proposed Jacopo de Voragine as his successor. Upon his refusal to accept the dignity, Obizzo Fieschi, the Patriarch of Antioch whom the Saracens had driven from the see, was transferred to the archiepiscopal See of Genoa by Nicholas IV in 1288.


When Obizzo Fieschi died, in 1292, the chapter of Genoa unanimously elected James de Voragine as his successor. He again endeavoured to evade the archiepiscopal dignity, but was finally obliged to yield to the combined prayers of the clergy, the Senate, and the people of Genoa. Nicholas IV wished to consecrate him bishop personally, and called him to Rome for that purpose; but shortly after the arrival of de Voragine the pope died, and the new bishop was consecrated at Rome during the succeeding interregnum, on 13 April, 1292. The episcopate of Jacopo de Voragine fell in a time when Genoa was a scene of continuous warfare between the Rampini and the Mascarati, the former of whom were Guelphs, the latter Ghibellines. The archbishop, indeed, effected an apparent reconciliation between the two hostile parties in 1295; but the dissensions broke out anew, and all his efforts to restore peace were useless. In 1292 he held a provincial synod at Genoa, chiefly for the purpose of identifying the relics of St. Syrus, one of the earliest bishops of Genoa (324?).

He died 13 July 1298, was buried in the Dominican church in Genoa and beatified by pope Pius VII in 1816.

The same pope permitted the clergy of Genoa and Savona, and the whole Order of St. Dominic, to celebrate his feast as that of a saint.


Lombardica Historia = legenda Sanctorum = Legenda Aurea


James de Voragine is best known as the author of a collection of legendary lives of the saints, which was entitled "Legenda Sanctorum" by the author, but soon became universally known as "Legenda Aurea" (Golden Legend), because the people of those times considered it worth its weight in gold. In some of the earlier editions it is styled "Lombardica Historia", which title gave rise to the false opinion that this was a different work from the "Golden Legend".

The title "Lombardica Historia" originated in the fact that in the life of Pope Pelagius, which forms the second last chapter of the "Golden Legend", is contained an abstract of the history of the Lombards down to 1250 (Mon. Germ. Hist.: Script., XXIV, 167 sq.). In the preface to the "Golden Legend" the author divides the ecclesiastical year into four periods, which he compared to four epochs in the history of the world, viz. a time of deviation, renovation, reconciliation, and pilgrimage. The body of the work, which contains 177 chapters (according to others, 182), is divided into five sections, viz. from Advent to Christmas, from Christmas to Septuagesima, from Septuagesima to Easter, from Easter to Octave of Pentecost, and from the Octave of Pentecost to Advent. If we are to judge the "Golden Legend" from an historical standpoint, we must condemn it as entirely uncritical and hence of no value, except in so far as it teaches us that the people of those times were an extremely naive and thoroughly religious people, permeated with an unshakable belief in God's omnipotence and His fatherly care for those who lead a saintly life.


Chronicon Genuense = Chronicle of Genoa


Another important work of James de Voragine is his so-called "Chronicon Genuense", a chronicle of Genoa reaching to 1296. Part of this chronicle, which is a valuable source of Genoese history, was published by Muratori in "Rerum Italicarum Scriptores" (Milan, 1723-51), IX, 5-56. Concerning it see Mannucci, "La cronaca di Jacopo da Viraggio" (Geneva, 1904). He is also the author of a collection of 307 sermons, "Sermones de sanctis, de tempore, quadragesimales, de Beata Maria Virgine". They have been repeatedly printed, both separately and collectively. The earliest edition of the whole collection was printed in 1484, probably at Venice, where they were published a second time in 1497 and repeatedly thereafter. His remaining literary productions are "Defensorium contra impugnantes Fratres Praedicatores" (Venice, 1504), which is a defence of the Dominicans against some who accused them of not leading an Apostolic life; "Summarium virtutum et vitiorum" (Basle, 1497), which is an epitome of a work of the same title, written by William Peraldus, a Dominican who died about thirty years before James de Voragine. A theological work, entitled "De operibus et opusculis Sancti Augustini", is also generally ascribed to him, but its authenticity has not yet been sufficiently established. It is known that he was a close student of St. Augustine. Some, relying on the authority of Sixtus of Siena, ascribe to him also an Italian translation of the Bible, but no manuscript or print of it has ever been found.


Hugh (Hugo) Ripolinus


Hugh (Hugo Ripolinus (or Ripelin or Hugh of Strasburg) was born ca. 1210 in the patrician family if Ripolin. He joined the Dominicans and was in the period 1232 till 1259 several times prior of the Dominican priory in Zurich. As lector in the priory of Strasburg, 1265-1270, he wrote his Compendium Theologiae Veritatis, which, on account of his scope and style, as well as it practical arrangement, was for 400 years used as a text-book.

By reason of its extensive use and wide circulation it was often copied
and later more often printed and reprinted. The work consists of seven books which treat of the Creation, the Fall, the Incarnation, Grace, the Sacraments, and the Last Four Things. Probably he was a friend of Albertus Magnus.


Source: Catholic Encyclopedia.




Panel: Detail of the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (1432)
 by Hubert and Jan van Eyck in the Saint Bavon Cathedral, Ghent.


Belgium `1986, Mi 2240, Sc  block 1051.


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