First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

Luke, the evangelist and a disciple of Christ, and a native of the city of Antioch, in Syria, was a physician, and not unfamiliar with the Greek tongue. He was a follower of Paul the apostle, and his inseparable companion during all his pilgrimages. Having learned that two gospels were available through Matthew in Judea, and through Mark in Italy, Luke, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote a gospel in Achaia according to what he had learned from St. Paul. And of him St. Paul said, We have sent with him (i.e., Titus) the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches.[II Cor. 8:18.] At another place St. Paul says, Luke the physician, my most beloved, greets you. But Luke did not derive his gospel from St. Paul alone, but, as he himself states, from other apostles, just as those taught us who were in the service of the ministry and had seen it from the beginning. They say that he was also instructed in it by the Blessed Mother Mary, of whose friendship he availed himself; and that later he was also instructed in the art of painting. And as he had many dealings with the Virgin Mary, and lived there, therefore (as Damascenus states) he often painted her portrait. Of these same portraits there are two at hand in Rome. One of these, at St. Mary of the People[The church of St. Mary of the People (Santa Maria del Popolo) was built in 1099, at the very northern edge of the city center, on a site of a grove of walnut trees said to be haunted by the ghost of Nero.], is preserved with great veneration. After having lived his life without a wife for seventy-four years, Luke died at Bithynia on the 18th day of October. In the twentieth year of the reign of Constantius his remains were brought to Constantinople. They now rest in the Basilica of St. Justina at Padua.[Luke was not an apostle, and like Mark, appears to have been converted after the death of Jesus. According to tradition he was the beloved disciple of Paul. Legend relates that after the martyrdom of Peter and Paul he preached the gospel in Greece and Egypt; but whether he died a natural death, or suffered martyrdom, is not clear. The gospel (actually a two-volume work, Luke-Acts) ascribed to his authorship is, like the other gospels of the New Testament, written anonymously (it was only later Christian tradition that assigned the four authors’ names to the gospels). Some say he was crucified with Andrew at Patras. There is some ground for the supposition that he was a physician. Thus Paul, in his Epistle to the Colossians, states, "Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you" (Col. 4:14), which may be the remark to which the chronicler refers in the text. But the legend that makes Luke a painter, and represents him as painting the portrait of the Virgin, is unsupported by any of the earlier traditions. It is of Greek origin and still universally received by the Eastern Orthodox Church. It was introduced by Greek painters who claim that Luke painted many portraits of the Virgin, finding delight in the repetition of this subject.]

Evax, king of Arabia, a celebrated philosopher, physician and rhetorician, was in renown at this time. Among other works of his art he wrote a very good book on medicine and sent it to Nero. In it he not only described all the species and colors of medicinal herbs, but also the minerals, and in what regions they are to be found.[Evax is said to have been a king of Arabia. He is mentioned in some editions of Pliny ( 25.4) as having written a work , addressed to Nero, that is, the emperor Tiberius 14-37 CE; but this reference has been omitted in most modern editions of Pliny. He is said by Marbodus, in the prologue to his poem on precious stones, to have written a work on this subject addressed to Tiberius, from which his own is partly taken. The work of Marbodus has been published and quoted under the name of Evax.] Vectius, a Greek physician, after the civil wars in Rome, set up a new system, opposing both the ancients and the moderns by frivolous aspirations, claiming that it had supplanted the system of Hippocrates. But Galen (Galenius) exposed his ignorance.[ Vectius Valens remains a bit of a mystery. ]

Mary Magdalene, the most distinguished apostle of Christ, was from youth (as the sacred history of her records) the most beautiful among all maidens. By the wishes of Martha, her sister, and Lazarus, her brother, she was given a husband at the castle of Magdala, but soon afterwards she was misled by wantonness and empty happiness. This Magdalene, being unmindful of her family, became a sinner; but through the sermons and teachings of Christ she was reformed. At the house of Simon (Symonis) the leper she fell at His feet. Weeping, she washed His feet and dried them with the hair of her head, and she kissed them, and anointed them with costly ointment.[ Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8.] And the Lord said, O woman, your many sins are forgiven. Go forth in peace. Afterwards, during all her life, she was zealously attached to Christ, and because of her devotion her brother Lazarus was raised from the dead; and she chose the best part. After the ascension of the Lord, she became a strict hermit at Marseilles (Massilia), and without the knowledge of the people she lived in one spot for thirty years. Every day of the week she was raised up into the air by angels, and her earthly ears were restored by the pleasant song of the celestial choir; and for that reason she was sat (in office)iated to such an extent that she required no bodily nourishment. Finally, through a hermit, she was revealed to the bishop Maximinus. He looked for her at sunrise on the Sunday morning she was to die; and she appeared two cubits above the earth in the midst of angels surrounded by a great light, and fortified with the Holy Sacrament in tears she gave up the Spirit to God the 22nd day of the month of July.

Mary Magdalene is, in Christian tradition, the paradigmatic example of the penitent sinner absolved through faith and love. According to legend (nearly everything about her is legendary) she was of the district of Magdala, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where stood her castle, called Magdalon. In some traditions she is equated with the sister of Lazarus and Martha, and they were children of parents reported to be noble, or, in some way, of royal race. On the death of her father, Syrus, they inherited vast riches, equally divided between them. Lazarus took up a career in the military. Martha managed her possessions with discretion, and was a model of virtue and propriety, though a little too much addicted to worldly cares. Mary abandoned herself to luxurious pleasures and fell into a dissolute life, becoming known throughout the country as "The Sinner." At Martha’s request she listened to the exhortations of Jesus, through which her heart was touched and converted. When he supped at the house of Simon the Pharisee, she followed him there, "and she brought an alabaster box of ointment, and began to wash his feet with tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with ointment; and He said to her, Your sins are forgiven." She afterward became the most devoted of his followers; "ministered to him of her substance;" attended him to Calvary, and stood weeping at the foot of the cross. The old Provençal legend then continues the story.

After the ascension Lazarus with his two sisters, Mary and Martha, together with Maximin, one of the seventy-two disciples, from whom they had received baptism, and Cedon, the blind man whom Jesus had restored to sight, and Marcella the handmaiden, who attended on the two sisters, were sent by the pagans adrift in a vessel without sails, oars, or rudder; but guided by Providence, they were safely born over the sea and landed at Marseilles, in the country now called France. The people of the land were pagans, but were converted by the preachings and miracles of the Magdalene and her sister. After the death of Maximin, Lazarus became the first bishop of Marseilles.

These things accomplished, Mary Madgalene retired to a desert not far from the city; and here for thirty years she devoted herself to a life of solitary penance. During her long seclusion she was never seen nor heard of, and she was supposed to be dead. She fasted so vigorously that if it were not for the occasional visits of the angels, and the comfort bestowed by celestial visions, she would have perished. Every day during the last years of her penance the angels came down from heaven and carried her up in their arms into regions where she was ravished by the sounds of unearthly harmony, and beheld the glory of joy prepared for the sinner that repents. One day a certain hermit who lived in a cave in one of the mountains, having wandered farther than usual from his dwelling, beheld this wondrous vision – the Magdalene in the arms of ascending angels, who were singing songs of triumph as they bore her upwards. The hermit returned to the city of Marseilles, and reported what he had seen. (Jameson, Sacred and Legendary Art, I, 4th edition; London 1863; pp. 339-76.)


Saint Luke is portrayed in the garb of a monk. He is seated at his easel, painting a portrait of the Virgin and Child. The winged ox, emblem of St. Luke, is also introduced, and the animal looks out at us, with forefeet over a ledge. Both saint and ox are given a nimbus.


The Assumption of Mary Magdalene is represented by a large woodcut. In the foreground is a cluster of buildings, probably Marseilles. In the desolate background is Mount Pilon, above the summit of which the Magdalen is born upward by four angels. Her hands are in an attitude of prayer, and there is a nimbus about her head. She has no other veil than her redundant hair, flowing over her person, exposing nothing but her face, breasts, hands and feet. We miss the alabaster box of ointment, often placed in the hands of one of the angels as her symbol; also missing is the hermit who is sometimes shown as looking up at the vision. This was a very popular theme even in the earlier days, and there was little variety in its treatment.

In a hymn to the Magdalene, by an old Provençal poet (Valthazar de la Burle), there is a passage describing her ascent in the arms of angels, which to some extent fits this woodcut: "The day came when the angels bore her far above the rock-cave. Through storm and cold, she had no other clothing than her hair, which covered her from head to feet like a mantle, it was so beautiful and blonde."