Friday, March 31, 2017

The Real Saint Ronald

Quick sketch of Saint Ronald made for a friend a couple of days ago.

Although it is a fairly common name, there aren't many images of the old Norwegian saint. We could only find one, from Orkney.  

To remedy the scarcity, a new representation had to be drawn up, informed by a bit of research and interesting facts into the life and death of the martyred jarl.

The allegorical image then speaks about the saint in question, who in the 12c was a jarl ("earl" in English) for the Orkney Isles.  As the story goes, he vowed to God to build a church there in honour of the recently canonized Saint Magnus; it was made of yellow and red limestone, and that has become the attribute held by him.  The anachronistic earl's coronet is used to denote his rank in life, in a manner familiar to our contemporary understanding.  He wears a red mantle which drapes onto the slab in which he was killed symbolizing his own martyrdom and the fact that the miracles which according to legend led to his canonization, are based on the legend that his blood remained fresh on the said stone many years after his death.  The stone was taken to be housed and venerated to the church of his own foundation, the now Cathedral of Saint Magnus in Kirkwall.  The slab is dressed itself with a representation of the flag of the Orkneys as becoming of the state honours that would have been rendered to him as the sitting earl upon death.  The Saint wears a tunic which represents the (again, anachronistic) flag of Norway simply to recall his lineage and the fact that he was a Norwegian agent in those lands.  The Nordic crosses of the two flags are also a link to the Christianity of the Orkneys and its martyred earl - Saint Ronald having made a celebrated trip to the Holy Land in his own lifetime - not so much as a crusader, but as a pilgrim. The leggings recall the silvery crosses of Saint Andrew on a blue field which identify Scotland, nation to which the Orkneys presently belong along with this bit of cultural patrimony. So there it is, a new image of Saint Ronald, aka Rognvald, Earl of Orkney.  

Interestingly, he was quite a poet, and some of his writings still survive in the old Norse language, along with history of his life and trip to the Holy Land and back, in the Orkneyinga Saga. 

The martyred saint is remembered on the 20th of August.