Saint Jerome

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Sources: John Dixon Salt, Wikipedia, and Susanna Avery-Quash (asst. curator, the National Gallery, London) in association with Neil Handley of the BOA Museum

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Jerome (circa 347 – September 30, 420; Greek: Ευσέβιος Σωφρόνιος Ιερόνυμος, Latin: Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus; patron saint of librarians, spectacle makers and sellers) is best known as the translator of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into Latin. He also was a Christian apologist and his edition, the Vulgate, is still an important biblical text of the Roman Catholic Church. He is recognized by the Vatican as a Doctor of the Church. The other three include Archbishop Ambrose, Bishop Augustine, and Pope Gregory 1.

Jerome was born to Christian parents in Dalmatia and then received a comprehensive classical education from his father. He had a passionate love of books and a great thirst for knowledge. Later he learned Hebrew and studied the Scripture in its original language, then became a monk for some years in the Syrian Desert. In 379 he was ordained priest in Antioch. Three years later he returned to Rome and became Secretary to Pope Damasus. He acted as interpreter at the council of the Greek and Latin churches but this assembly failed. He remained on in the service of Pope Damasus and was given the job of revising the the Latin translations of the Gospels and Psalms. Jerome’s learning was vast and was unmatched by any other writer except Augustine. He was the quintessential scholar and his letters are often considered the finest of Christian antiquity. St Jerome's feast day is celebrated on September 30th.

In the artistic tradition of the Roman Catholic Church it has been usual to represent him, the patron of theological learning, as a cardinal. Even when he is depicted as a half-clad religious recluse, with cross, skull, and Bible for the only furniture of his room, the red hat or some other indication of his rank is as a rule introduced somewhere in the picture.

St of the best known fathers of the Church was traditionally credited with the discovery of spectacles. He was frequently represented by classical painters using glasses (as symbolism of the illiterate masses), an anachronism, because they were often added to portraits to signify any person of learning and higher education. Jerome lived some nine centuries before the appearance of spectacles, yet in the seventeenth century he was popularly (and incorrectly) credited with the invention of glasses.

Additional Reading on St. Jerome:

1). Buttler’s Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Saints, (a classic)
recently re-publishes in 12 month volumes.
2). Reverend S Baring Gould, Lives of the Saints, around 14 volumes, end of 1800s (another classic)
3). Martyrs and Saints of the First Twelve Centuries, by the author of Chronicles of the Schonberg-Cotta Family Family
4). The Golden Legend, Readings on the Saints, (one of the earliest recordings of “Lives”, written by Jocobus
5). Jacobus de Voragine, The Saints in Italy

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