Saint Dominic in Soriano

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Saint Dominic in Soriano (Italian: San Domenico in Soriano; Spanish: Santo Domingo en Soriano) refers to a portrait of Saint Dominic (1170–1221) which was from 1530 an important artefact in the Dominican friary at Soriano Calabro in southern Italy. It was believed to be of miraculous origin, and to be capable of working miracles. It was the subject of a Roman Catholic feast day celebrated on 15 September from 1644 to 1912. Its miraculous origin was the subject of several 17th-century paintings. Several ecclesiastical buildings have been named after it. It may no longer exist.


There seems to be no record that Dominic himself ventured further south in Italy than Rome. In 1510, members of the Dominican Order founded a friary at Soriano Calabro, Calabria, in the arch of the foot of the boot of Italy. A town grew up around it. In 1530, the friars began to display for public veneration a portrait of the founder of their Order. There are at least three different stories of its origin:

  1. On 15 September 1530, shortly before the pre-dawn daily service of Matins, three mysterious ladies appeared at the friary. One of them gave a rolled-up canvas to the sacristan, and instructed him to give it to the Superior of the House. When it was unrolled, the friars found that it contained a portrait of Saint Dominic. It was later revealed that the three ladies were the Virgin Mary, Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Mary Magdalene. This is the story accepted by the Dominican Order.[1]
  2. Three ladies (the same two Marys; but with Saint Catherine of Siena)[Note 1] appeared in a dream to a monk of Soriano, and showed him the portrait. When he awoke, it was physically present.[2]
  3. Three ladies (the same two Marys, and an unidentified Catherine) instructed a friar as to how Saint Dominic ought to be portrayed: namely, wearing the habit of his Order, and holding a red-bound book in one hand and a lily in the other.[3][Note 2]

The portrait soon acquired a reputation for having marvellous properties. No fewer than 1,600 miracles were reliably attributed to it within a space of 78 years. In 1644, Pope Innocent XII ordained a feast day on 15 September to commemorate its origin and properties.[1][Note 3] The feast was suppressed in 1913, when Pope Pius X moved what had until then been the movable feast of Our Lady of Sorrows to the fixed date of 15 September.[Note 4]

The more recent history of the portrait is unknown. Soriano Friary was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1659 (it). It was rebuilt; but was destroyed by another earthquake in 1783 (it was 3 km from the epicentre of a 6.6 magnitude shock). The friary was rebuilt for a second time, but never regained its earlier reputation. The portrait may have failed to survive one of those events.[Note 5]

Artistic representations

The miraculous origin of the portrait was a significant topic for religious art in 17th-century Italy and Spain. It is uncertain which, if any, of the painters had seen the original. They are consistent in showing Dominic slightly less than life-size, full length, wearing his habit, with book and lily; but differ in detail.

They are also consistent in another way: all show the three saints exhibiting the open painting to one or more friars. They thus illustrate the essence of the presentation rather than the most widely accepted narrative.[1]

Examples (with provenance, where known) include (arranged approximately by date):

Ecclesiastical buildings

Ecclesiastical buildings named after, and so perhaps dedicated to, Saint Dominic in Soriano include (arranged by date):


  1. ^ The artistic representations of the miracle suggest that this attribution to Catherine of Siena is wrong: she was a Dominican nun, and would therefore presumably have been depicted wearing her habit; but Catherine in the 17th-century paintings seems never to be. In some paintings (for example, those by Maíno, Castiglione and Bocanegra), Catherine can confidently be identified as Catherine of Alexandria by her crown of martyrdom.[citation needed]
  2. ^ That idea was not new. Fra Angelico had portrayed Saint Dominic with the identical attributes in his Perugia Altarpiece of 1437–38.
  3. ^ The years from when the portrait began to gain its reputation until its official recognition fall squarely within the Counter-Reformation, which is dated 1545–1648.
  4. ^ Saint Dominic has always been held in the highest regard. The feast may have been removed from the church calendar simply because its subject, the portrait, no longer existed. If there is any mention of either the portrait or the feast in Catholic Encyclopedia (1907–1912), it is not easy to find.
  5. ^ Most of the paintings by notable artists were made before 1659. The friary continued to be a destination for pilgrimage until 1783 (see Soriano Calabro in Italian Wikipedia for a narrative). Arguments for loss of the portrait on either, or any other, date are inconclusive.


  1. ^ a b c d "Pillars of the Dominican Order: St. Dominic de Guzman & St. Thomas Aquinas". Providence College. Retrieved 17 April 2017. 
  2. ^ "BOCANEGRA, Pedro Anastasio". Web Gallery of Art. Retrieved 16 April 2017. 
  3. ^ a b "Image of Saint Dominic Being Carried to Soriano by the Madonna and the Saints Mary Magdalene and Catherine". Piccoli Grandi Musei. Retrieved 17 April 2017.  (Under the 'Collection' tab.)
  4. ^ Sassu, Giovanni (1 February 2015). "Carlo Bononi e i colori "di cuore liquefatto"". MuseoinVita (in Italian). Retrieved 19 April 2017. 
  5. ^ "Santo Domingo en Soriano". (in Spanish). Retrieved 18 April 2017. 
  6. ^ Carlos Varona, M. C. de (2009). "Santo Domingo en Soriano". Museo del Prado (in Spanish). Retrieved 18 April 2017. 
  7. ^ "Alonso Cano". Artcyclopedia. Retrieved 17 April 2017. 
  8. ^ Merino Thomas, Andrés. "Milagro de Santo Domingo en Soriano". Revista de arte (in Spanish). Retrieved 18 April 2017. 
  9. ^ a b Cavalcoli, Giovanni (25 September 2015). "P. Cavalcoli rincara la dose sulla misericordia del cardinale Kasper". Scuola Ecclesia Mater (in Italian). Retrieved 19 April 2017. 
  10. ^ Viera y Clavijo, José (2004). Noticias de la historia general de las Islas de Canaria. MAXTOR. p. 406. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  11. ^ "Churches in Soriano". Diocese of Mercedes. Retrieved 21 May 2013.  (in Spanish)

External links

  • "Commemoration of Our Patriarch, Saint Dominic, in Soriano". The Order of Preachers, Independent. 15 September 2016. Retrieved 19 April 2017.  An extremely detailed, but completely unsourced, account of the portrait's miraculous origin, which shows how some people in the 21st century still hold it in especial reverence.
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