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History: Saint Camillus

Camillus de Lellis, born at Naples in 1550, served as a Venetian soldier. When he suffered from abscesses he obtained employment with the Hospital for Incurables in Rome in the hope of obtaining hospital care. Later he was employed by Capuchins at Manfredonia on a hospital they were building. He was admitted as a lay brother to the order but was dismissed on account of his infirmity. He then became a nurse in a hospital in Rome where through piety and prudence he became director of the hospital and founded an order of lay infirmarians. St. Philip Neri was his spiritual director. Camillus became a priest and founded an order of Fathers of a Good Death. He bound the members of the order by vow to devote themselves to the plague-stricken and to the care of the sick in their homes. Pope Sixtus V confirmed the congregation. In 1591, Gregory xIv erected the society into a religious congregation with the privileges of mendicants. For forty-six years Camillus suffered but he was not deterred thereby from establishing mercy houses in many parts of Italy. He was canonized by Benedict XIV in 1746.

In the mural which is dedicated to him as the patron of medicine, we see Camillus, clothed in the habit of his order administering the final absolution to a dying young man. Reclining on a ruined portal, the youth in extreme desolation and abandonment is a wasted victim of one of the plagues which ravaged Italy during the lifetime of Camillus. The saint fearlessly and pityingly approaches to prepare the youth for his journey to Eternity. The figures of the boy and the saint dominate one side of the picture while in the background on the other side is a noble city. The picture is a fine example of the massing of light and color, a well-balanced and a well-blended scene, with no exotic or fantastic motifs but a calm picturing of disease and death, relieved by Christian Charity and spiritual consolation.

 


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