Saint Camillus de Lellis, Priest (1550-1614): The Iconography

St. Camillus founded the Order of Ministers to the Sick, originally called the Brothers of a Happy Death, and ministered to invalids first in the Ospedale Santo Spirito in Rome and later also on the battlefield in Hungary and Croatia. The order was the first "military field ambulance" in history. In Rome, Camillus lived in the monastery adjacent to the Maddalena church, where he is now entombed.1

In images Camillus wears a collar such as the one seen at left, often with short points on it.  In paintings he wears a cassock or stole with a red cross, the emblem assigned to his order by Pope Sixtus V (example).2 According to a biography at his order's American web site, the cross played a role at crucial points in the saint's life: Before his birth his mother had a vision of her son with a cross leading other men with a similar cross. And once, when Camillus was feeling discouraged, he heard a voice from his crucifix saying "This is my work, not yours."

A painting in the Maddalena represents the latter episode and has Christ reaching out to Camillus from the crucifix with his left arm. Another in the same church shows Mary Magdalene worshipping the cross of St. Camillus, and yet another has him rising toward the Cross in Heaven.
He is also featured, along with his confessor St. Philip Neri, in the Glory of St. Mary Magdalene fresco in the sacristy.

Other images show the Camillans at work in the Santo Spirito or tending to wounded soldiers.

Feast day: July 18

At left, his statue in the fašade of the Maddalena. 


1Butler III, 134-36. "St. Camillus of Lellis, the Ex-Trooper," online at Wikipedia, s.v. "Santa Maria Maddalena."

"St. Camillus of Lellis, the Ex-Trooper."