St. Augustine Windows
Shortly after his conversion, Augustine returned to Milan to be baptized by St. Ambrose, then the Bishop of Milan, on Easter Sunday, 387. Ambrose was extremely influential in Augustine's path to conversion (6.3.3). Here we see him pouring the water over Augustine, using what looks like a sea shell (an ancient symbol of baptism). The kneeling figure is surely his mother St. Monica. She had prayed for many years that her son would become a Christian (3.12.21), and now her prayers have finally been answered. The person in the back looks younger than Augustine, it may be Augustine's teenage son, Adeodatus, who was with him at his baptism (9.6.14).
What was baptism like in Augustine's time? Archeologists have now excavated below the current cathedral in Milan and found the ancient baptistery, where Augustine's baptism presumably took place. The actual scene must have looked quite different from what was imagined by the artists who did the window and the fresco. If you click on the link, you can see that in Augustine's time, people were apparently baptized by being submerged in an rather large octagonal pool. When you go to the St. Thomas of Villanova Church, notice the tiles in the floor by the baptismal font. You will see colored tiles that mark out a large octagon, suggesting the size and shape of the ancient baptismal pool where Augustine was baptized in Milan.
|Conversion||Baptism||Vision||Death||Writing Confessions||Pelagianism||Sea Shell||Giving the Rule|
Images are from the stained glass windows of St. Thomas of Villanova Church, taken by Aurora Imaging Company. Quotations from St. Augustine's Confessions, translated by Maria Boulding, O.S.B., (Hyde Park, New York: New City Press) 1997. Author: John Immerwahr. May 29, 2008.