Saint Vincent of Saragossa: The Iconography

In Valencia, Spain, St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr. Under the most impious Prefect Dacian he underwent imprisonment, starvation, the rack, the twisting of his members, hot plates, burning on a gridiron, and other torments. As the reward for his martyrdom he flew up to Heaven. Prudentius narrated the noble triumph of his passion in a brilliant poem, and blessed Augustine and Pope St. Leo have commended him with the highest praise. – Roman Martyrology for January 22

According to Prudentius in the 4th century and the Golden Legend in the 13th, St. Vincent was tortured to death in Valencia with a variety of implements beginning with the rack and ending with the gridiron. The gridiron is associated with St. Lawrence, so in images Vincent's attribute is usually the rack, represented as two crossed wooden beams. In portraits he typically wears a dalmatic and holds a martyr's palm and a closed book, as at right.

The provost of Valencia ordered that St. Vincent's body be tied to a millstone and thrown from a ship at sea. Thus in the picture at right we see the millstone behind the donor, and in the picture below it a ship is used as the saint's attribute.

The narrative of St. Vincent's passion does not appear to be a common subject in the art, but it does appear in one stained-glass window in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.

Prepared in 2015 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University

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A 15th-century portrait of St. Vincent (See description page)


Relief portrait by Gian Cristoforo Romano, 1505 (See description page)

A 6th-century mosaic of Vincent or Lawrence with a Roman-style wheeled gridiron (see description page)

DATES

  • Feast day: January 22
  • St. Vincent died in about 304.

HAGIOGRAPHY

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