In the chancel where our cantors and choirs sing, we have two icons of Saints Leander and Saint Isidore. These brother bishops of Seville lived long ago in Hispania and their leadership was instrumental at a pivotal time in the history of the Church in Spain. They both worked to reassert orthodox Catholicism in Spain after it had been overrun with the Arian heresy. Arianism was a heresy that took long patience and many generations to overcome. And when the elder Saint Leander died, it was his younger brother, Saint Isidore, who succeeded him as archbishop of Seville. What Leander began, Isidore was to complete.
As a youth, Saint Isidore (560-636) had his older brother Leander for a teacher. Leander long promoted schools and learning, and he was determined that his younger brother would benefit from both. The result of this was that Saint Isidore became probably the best-educated man of his age. Thus the learned and well-read Saint Isidore is recognized as a Doctor of the Universal Church, the last of the great Latin Fathers of the Church, and the last scholar of the ancient world. And Saint Isidore is credited with writing a Summa that was meant to be a summation of all the best learning and universal knowledge of the day. The book held in his hand in our icon represents this work. That Summa included the most learned thoughts of its day (some of which might seem rather quaint to us today). But we should not dismiss this accomplishment. For example, we sometimes read that Aristotle came to the west again by way of Islam, when in fact, it was Saint Isidore who taught the works of Aristotle long before the Arabs briefly embraced Greek philosophy. Isidore’s Summa became a fundamental text for the seminaries he was promoting throughout Spain, and because he was so good at gathering the knowledge of his day into one source, he has been called the patron saint of the Internet!
On April 4th, 636, Saint Isidore went on to his reward. He had served for 32 years as the archbishop of Seville. His body was interred in Seville where his tomb rested unmolested for generations. But the Muslims invaded, so in the 11th century, his body was removed and taken to Leon, where a beautiful basilica today stands. The beautiful art in that basilica inspires our icon here at OLM.
The icons of these two brother bishops make up a treasured part of our parochial patrimony. They were commissioned in 2015 by our pastor, and they were hand-painted in Mexico. The iconographer was asked to invoke, as much as possible, the Spanish twelfth-century Romanesque frescoes of the Basilica San Isidoro de Leon. In this particular icon of Saint Isidore, we see the archbishop holding one of the many books for which he was famous (his Summa being the most influential perhaps). Saint Isidore is also famous for his compiling of the traditional chant of the Mozarabic Rite of Spain and you can find Mozarabic chant videos online if you want to know what traditional worship in Spain sounded like in the ancient world. In his other arm, Isidore holds a bishop’s crozier (tooled in pewter).
We invoke the prayers of these two great brother bishops of Seville to be patrons of our music program here at OLM. May they help us to know and to honor the Hispanic traditions that are a part of our collective Catholic heritage.