San Isidro (the saint, not the church)

"San Isidro," oil on linen panel by Melwell, 12x9
“San Isidro,” oil on linen panel by Melwell, 12×9

In this painting, a farmer with a glowing halo is shown. Instead of seeing an angel hitched to a plow, which is a popular depiction of the saint, you can see the angel’s halo and its wings only. Isidro looks at the viewer squarely in the face. His bearing seems very stoic, yet the farmer seems soft and receptive, like the earth after plowing. In the background is his house and maybe a neighbor or two. There is even a church. And of course, there are the mountains.

It seems odd to me to paint a landscape without mountains. How strange for someone who grew up in Kansas, que no?

If you are unfamiliar with San Isidro, let me give you a little background.

San Isidro is also known as Saint Isidore the Farmer. He is a popular saint in the Catholic Church and is considered the patron saint of farmers, rural communities, and laborers. His feast day is celebrated on May 15th.

San Isidro was born in Madrid, Spain, in the late 11th century. He lived a devout and humble life, working as a farm laborer for a wealthy landowner named Juan de Vargas. Despite his lowly social status, San Isidro was known for his piety, generosity, and strong faith.

According to popular legends, San Isidro performed miracles and had a close connection to nature. It is said that angels would plow the fields for him while he prayed, allowing him to attend Mass without neglecting his work. There are also tales of him miraculously providing water for his thirsty fellow workers during times of drought.

San Isidro was known for his deep devotion to the Eucharist and would often spend long hours in prayer at a local church. He was admired for his humility and his commitment to helping those in need. San Isidro and his wife, Santa María de la Cabeza, are often depicted as a model of a devout and loving married couple.

Another popular legend associated with San Isidro revolves around a miraculous episode of finding water during a drought. It is believed that on one occasion, San Isidro’s master accused him of neglecting his work to spend time in prayer. In response, San Isidro struck his staff into the dry ground, and a spring of water gushed forth. This event not only quenched the thirst of his fellow workers but also vindicated San Isidro’s piety.

After San Isidro’s death in 1130, his reputation for holiness grew, and numerous miracles were attributed to his intercession. In 1622, he was canonized as a saint by Pope Gregory XV.

San Isidro is venerated not only in Spain but also by farmers and rural communities worldwide. His life serves as an inspiration for those seeking to integrate their faith with their daily work and to find spiritual meaning in simple, everyday tasks.