01 Works, RELIGIOUS ART – Today, December 7, is St Ambrose’s day, With Footnotes – 139

Camillo Procaccini (1561–1629)
St Ambrose Stopping Theodosius, second half of 16th century

Oil on canvas
Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio

Theodosius had, in his privileged youth, been military governor of Moesia. But after a charge of cowardice and his father’s execution for conspiracy he had languished in enforced early retirement in Spain. Yet when disaster hit the Roman world at Adrianople in 378, the debacle led Gratian – an inexperienced and ‘pious’ nineteen-year-old under the control of bishop Ambrose in Milan – to appoint the thirty-two year old Theodosius as Augustus for the east.

Theodosius was baptised by the local Catholic Bishop, Acholius. Unfortunately for the fate of civilization, thereafter Theodosius was more concerned with religious correctness than with the safety of the empire which now fell into his hands. More on Theodosius

Ambrose was the second son of Ambrosius, the imperial viceroy of Gaul and part of an ancient Roman family who numbered among their ancestors several Christian martyrs. Though Ambrose was born at Trier, his father died not long after, and thus he was brought to Rome to be raised. Throughout his childhood, the future saint would be acquainted with many members of the clergy and would regularly visit with his sister Marcellina, who was a nun.


At about age 30, Ambrose became the governor of Aemilia-Liguria and took up residence in Milan. Then, in 374, he was unexpectedly chosen as bishop. The choice proved fortunate for both Ambrose and the city. He displayed a rigid intolerance toward non-Christians and heretics.


Ambrose played an important role in the struggle against the Arian heresy, standing against them at a synod in Aquileia and refusing to turn over a church in Milan for their use. When a pagan faction of the senate appealed to Emperor Valentinian II for a return to regular pagan observances, Ambrose responded in a letter to the emperor with sound arguments that effectively shut the pagans down.


Ambrose frequently helped the poor, secured pardons for the condemned, and denounced social injustices in his sermons. He was always happy to educate people interested in becoming baptized. He advocated chastity to such an extent that parents of marriageable young women hesitated to let their daughters attend his sermons for fear they’d take the veil. 

Legend has it that Ambrose was told in a dream to search for the remains of two martrys, Gervasius and Protasius, which he found under the church. More on St Ambrose 


Camillo Procaccini (1551 – 21 August 1629) was an Italian painter. He has been posthumously referred to as the Vasari of Lombardy, for his prolific Mannerist fresco decoration.


Born in Bologna, he was the son of the painter Ercole Procaccini the Elder, and older brother to Giulio Cesare and Carlo Antonio, both painters.


In 1587 he distinguished in the fresco decoration of the Basilica della Ghiara in Reggio Emilia. In the late 1580s he moved to Milan, where count Camillo Visconti Borromeo commissioned him the decoration of his villa in Lainate. He painted the frescoes of the nave and the apse of the Cathedral of Piacenza in collaboration with Ludovico Carracci (1605–1609), and the vault and choir in San Barnaba of Milan. He painted a Nativity in the Sacro Monte d’Orta. He is known for a Martyrdom of St. Agnes painted in fresco in the sacristy of the Milan cathedral; a Madonna and Child painted for the church of Santa Maria del Carmine; an ‘Adoration of the Shepherds found in the Brera; and the ceiling of the church of Padri Zoccolanti, representing the Assumption of the Virgin. He frescoed a large Last Judgment in the apse of the church of San Prospero at Reggio; He painted a St. Roch administering the Sacrament to the Plague-stricken. More on Camillo Procaccini

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