St. Vincent Being Burnt on the Rack

St. Vincent Burnt on the Rack, stained glass panel, about 1240-5. Museum no. 8-1881, given by Mr Henry Vaughan

St. Vincent Burnt on the Rack, stained glass panel, about 1240-5. Museum no. 8-1881, given by Mr Henry Vaughan. St Vincent was the patron saint of the abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris. There were two windows dedicated to him in the abbey. This panel, showing his death on a gridiron, comes from the window dedicated to the saint's passion. Its other half, showing the Roman proconsul directing events, is now in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

St. Vincent of Saragossa

St Vincent was a deacon of the church in the Spanish town of Saragossa. Tradition holds that he was martyred around 304, during the persecutions of the Roman emperor Diocletian.

Shortly after his death, fellow churchmen started to write stories about his life. Over the centuries these stories became more elaborate and fantastical. According to the Golden Legend, a compilation of the lives of saints written in the 13th century, Vincent and his bishop were brought before the Roman governor, Dacian. At this time it was illegal to practise Christianity, and Vincent was charged with treason against the state. He refused to recant his faith, so Dacian ordered his soldiers to torture him.

They first tried to starve Vincent. When this did not work, they tied him to a rack and stretched his limbs until they popped out of their sockets. When Vincent still refused to recant his faith, the torturers drove iron hooks and red-hot spikes into his sides so the blood spurted and his entrails hung out from his body. They then took Vincent off the rack and roasted him on a gridiron, throwing salt on his wounds to increase his torments.

All throughout these ordeals, Vincent remained steadfast in his faith and love for God.

The enraged governor then ordered him to be thrown in a dungeon, its floor covered with broken glass so Vincent would lie in agony. As he finally died, the soldiers reported that they saw through a slot in the dungeon door a brilliant flash of light and angels carrying his soul up to heaven. Not satisfied with Vincent's death, Dacian ordered his body to be exposed to the wild beasts to be torn to shreds. Instead, angels appeared and surrounded the body to protect it.

In this stained glass panel we see the soldiers with their hooks and spikes. The entrails are visible at the bottom.

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