Elizabeth Zelasko

Saint Monica, Mother of Saint Augustine

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As an art student in New York City I had a chance to see a rare traveling Byzantine icon show. I was captivated with everything I saw, but one image of the Blessed Mother in particular caught my eye.

I thought the gesture of Mary’s arms so peculiar – as though she was holding something, but her arms were empty. Reading the description next to the small icon, I learned that it was the only surviving piece from a triptych depicting Christ crucified in the center panel, with John the beloved disciple and Mary standing on either side, looking up at Our Lord. I went on to read that Mary’s arms were in the position of holding a child, her child, no longer a swaddled babe but an unrecognizable man hanging from a cross. I burst out in tears right there in the Met. The mother of God had been depicted in a way I had never seen before: human, holy, pierced with sorrow.

When asked to create an image of Saint Monica, the mother of Augustine, it was this icon of Our Lady which came immediately to mind: Monica, who lived her sainthood by fervently loving and praying for her child, who had grown to be a man of renown and debauchery. How she must have united her heart to the heart of Mary, the mother of God! I chose to show Monica seated on a throne similar to Mary’s “sedes sapientiae” or “seat of wisdom,” showing us the shared heart of a mother. Saint Monica is depicted with the same empty arms as Our Lady, watching her child suffer his own cross, patiently waiting for him to come to Christ’s cross.

This painting resides at the Augustine Institute in Denver, CO. The Augustine Institute commissioned this painting from Elizabeth Zelasko and has used the image in their media.

*Please note that your order is fulfilled by Printful on museum-quality matte paper. Images will arrive in a mailing tube and will need to be flattened out and framed as desired. The cropping of all images is completed by me and may vary from size to size. As such, your print may appear slightly different than the image posted here.

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