Small oil painting on copper, with part ly paited with gold leafs, depicting St John of Matha / 1160 – 1213 /
Ca 1660-80 Spanish Colonial
Measurements:94 x 74 mm
Most of the story of John of Matha’s life is based on legends that circulated after his death. It is reasonably certain that he was born to noble parents at Faucon-de-Barcelonnette, on the borders of Provence on June 23, 1169. He was baptized John, in honour of St. John the Baptist. His father Euphemius sent him to Aix, where he learned grammar, fencing, riding, and other exercises fit for a young nobleman. It is said that while there he gave the poor a considerable part of the money his parents sent him, and he visited the hospital every Friday, assisting the sick poor.
He studied theology at the University of Paris and was ordained a priest at the age of 32 in December 1192. According to Trintarian tradition, on January 28, 1193, John celebrated his first Mass. During that Mass, he was struck with a vision of Christ holding by the hand two chained captives, one a Moor, the other a Christian (the Crusades were in full force at the time). The Christian captive carried a staff with a red and blue cross. After the Mass, John decided to devote himself to the task of ransoming Christian captives from the Moors. Before entering upon this work, he thought it needful to spend some time in retirement, prayer, and mortification; and having heard of a holy hermit, St. Felix of Valois, living in a great wood near Gandelu, in the diocese of Meux, he repaired to him and requested him to instruct him in the practice of perfection.