Born in what is now Croatia, Jerome (ca. 345-420) became a monk around the age of 25. After a dream in which he was told he was not Christian enough, he moved to the Syrian desert to become a hermit. The desert hermits were a group of men, and a few women, who lived focused on extreme physical austerity but spiritual abundance: the sayings of these men are among the most pithy statements of the essence of Christianity. Jerome went to the desert like others, with the intention of abandoning attachment to certain things so that he might embrace All, but he could not detach himself from learning: while others took nothing but rags with them to desert, Jerome brought his library. For this, and other reasons, he is the patron of book lovers, librarians, and scholars. In the desert, Jerome taught himself Hebrew (he already knew Greek) so that he could be closer to the original languages of the Bible. After four or five years in the desert, he returned to Rome, where Pope Damasus asked him to take on an immense task: to translate the entire Bible into Latin. Working from the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the original Greek version of the New Testament, Jerome spent the rest of his life on the project, a work (the Vulgate) of almost unimaginable breadth. (For this he is the patron of translators.) Besides his scholarship, Jerome was a ferocious social critic, especially when it came to the lives of fellow clergy. He wrote to a bishop known for his escapades with nuns: “You load your fingers with rings, you arrange the stray hairs on your brown skull to the best advantage. Your bull’s neck bulges out with fat and droops no whit because it has given way to lust.” He can go on with this invective for pages. Finally, Jerome is often depicted, as here, with a lion. The story is that a lion one day limped into the monastery where Jerome was at work. Other monks fled. Jerome, lion-like himself, stayed calm. The lion handed Jerome its paw. Jerome withdrew a thorn. For the rest of its life, the lion protected the scholar. This story is the reason that statues of lions often appear before libraries: those are Jerome’s lions. This small statue of Jerome was handmade by Hank Schlau and handpainted by Karen Schlau.
Dimensions: 7 (h) x 2 (w) x 1.5 (d) inches