St. Monica (331-387) was the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), a Church Father whose writings were formative to early Christian doctrine and who described his mother’s saintliness in his works. The wife of an abusive, alcoholic pagan named Patricius, Monica fervently prayed for the conversion of her husband (which occurred on his deathbed) and her son, who at the time was leading a wild and promiscuous life. Her devotion on behalf of her family made Monica the patron saint of housewives and mothers, an example of perseverance as well as great sorrow.
How to Know Her: Monica is often pictured with her son, Augustine of Hippo. She is usually portrayed as an elderly, modestly dressed woman. When shown on her own, Monica may be recognized by her symbolic attribute, tears.
Saint in the City: Though works depicting St. Monica are rare in New York City, she does have her own church! St. Monica’s Roman Catholic Church, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, exhibits the special devotion to the saint by the founders of the parish back in 1879 (check back in a few weeks to catch our spotlight on the church).
At MOBIA: St. Monica holds a unique place at MOBIA. She is found in a sketch for a window depicting her on her deathbed on view now in Louis C. Tiffany and the Art of Devotion. On loan from the Jeffrey Rush Higgins Collection at the Rakow Research Library of the Corning Museum of Glass, this work illustrates the thought behind a large, multi-figured window. Designed by Frederick Wilson, this preparatory sketch for an eight-lancet window surmounted by a large rose and a pair of octagonal lobed lights shows Monica receiving the sacrament of Last Rites in the lower register of four lancets. The sketch, painted in grisaille, is particularly significant for all the marginal notes and comments Wilson appends to it. In addition to citing biblical references like “Rom. XII, 13-14” and possible inscriptions for the window, the designer also defines the type and use of liturgical garments and implements he depicts. For example, Wilson notes that an “ambule a vessel for consecrated wine or water or holy chrism, if latter add spoon.” For chasuble, he notes “with cappa a sort of hood similar to the hood of a cope…(casula processoria) …cassock purple stole.” This marginalia indicates that Wilson approached his subject with a deep respect for liturgical context and a commitment to understanding and correctness.