News for bears: St. Corbinian

Recent news flashes for bears: the 11/17/18 posting “Teddy Bears’ Picnic Day” (with the customary bow to possible gay subtexts); and the 12/4/18 posting “Santa Barbara: smite him with lightning”, with image #2 — Corrado Parducci’s Horace Rackham Fountain at the Detroit Zoo (1939), featuring a pair of sculpture bears. Now, continuing the lives of the saints theme, but disregarding the many saints named Ursus or Ursula, we come to St. Corbinian, the patron saint of bears (thanks to the 8th-century Miracle of the Bear).

A footnote on the Rackham Fountain. But first, from the Wikipedia article on Parducci’s bears:

The Horace Rackham Memorial Fountain (1939), also known as the Bear Fountain, is a fountain located in the Detroit Zoo, Royal Oak, Michigan. It was designed by Frederick A. Schnaple (1872–1948) and sculpted by Corrado Parducci.

The fountain consists of a large bowl supported by two standing bears — as well as several frogs, turtles and even a couple of seals — along with some granite putti on the outside of the fountain.

…About this commission Parducci said, “I didn’t like that. I made it against my will. They wanted, Mrs. Rackham was sold on that, bears . . .

She wanted bears, and she had pots of money, so Parducci gritted his teeth and turned out  a couple of bears — much loved bears, as it happens. A commission is a commision, and who knows how your work will be received.

Corbinian and his (submissive) bear. From Wikipedia:

Saint Corbinian (Latin: Corbinianus; French: Corbinien; German: Korbinian; c. 670 – 8 September c. 730 AD) was a Frankish bishop. After living as a hermit near Chartres for fourteen years, he made a pilgrimage to Rome. Pope Gregory II sent him to Bavaria. His feast day is 8 September.

… Corbinian’s symbol is the saddled bear. According to his hagiography, a bear killed Corbinian’s pack horse on the way to Rome and so the saint commanded it to carry his load. Once he arrived in Rome, however, he let the bear go, and it lumbered back to its native forest. Both the heraldic element and the legend itself carry significant symbolism. One interpretation is that the bear tamed by God’s grace is the Bishop of Freising himself and the pack saddle is the burden of his episcopate. The bear’s submission and retreat can also be interpreted as Christianity’s “taming” and “domestication” of the ferocity of paganism and, consequentially, the laying of a “[foundation] for a great civilization in the Duchy of Bavaria.”

Corbinian depicted through the centuries:


(#1) 15th century: Saint Corbinian depicted in The Miracle of the Bear (1489) by Jan Polack. Diocesan Museum in Freising, Germany.


(#2) 19th century: Anonymous, St. Corbinian and the Bear, German c. 1870-1880. Panel in Freising Cathedral.


(#3) 20th century: Klaus Blackmund, St. Corbinian. Monument for the 1,250th anniversary of the establishment of the diocese of Friesing. German, 1989. Munich, Maxburgstrasse.

2 Responses to “News for bears: St. Corbinian”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    The bear in #2 does not look especially submissive.

  2. [BLOG] Some Monday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky considers different saints and different kinds of […]

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