Birds of the Air and Beasts of the Field

Most people know that St Francis of Assisi, along with Saint Anthony of Padua, is the Patron of Animals in the Western Church but I defy anyone to tell me – without Google or a similar search – who the Patron Saint of God’s Creatures Great and Small is in the Orthodox church. Here’s a hint:


Give up? It’s Saint Modestus of Jerusalem, one of the several patrons of animals in the Eastern Church.

I had seen this beautiful icon at Koukos when we were in Athens last November – when I bought the very unusual icon of the Child Christ, the Virgin and her mother Saint Anna. But at the time I just didn’t have the money to spend on it. However my very thoughtful spouse decided that as we seemed to be calling on several saints name while attempting to train the deadly duo that it would be good to have one of those saints represented in our house.

It was “written” by the same icon writer* from Thessaloniki as the previous one and bears his signature characteristics if not his actually name. It is painted on canvas and attached to the wood rather than on the wood itself. The figure is decidedly Eastern in appearance but scene that surrounds him could almost come out of an early Medieval manuscript. It is this combination of Western and Eastern influences that appeals to me most in this writer’s work.

So it now falls to Saint Modestus to become our helpmate in bringing Nick and Nora into line. If that fails we may just have to call upon a higher power. But then I’ve already done that in a very loud voice on several occasions.

19 luglio – San Pietro Crisci da Foligno

* Icons are said to be written not painted…  a very important element in the ethos of the Orthodox church.