When the Saints Go Arting In: Bernard

Jo Thornely
2 min readMay 15, 2020


Today I learned about St Bernard of Clairvaux, who — get ready — the Virgin Mary squirted breast milk at. I’m not kidding, it’s right there in the art, like this one from Alonso Cano:

In some pictures, like Josefa de Obidos’s painting, the breast milk goes into his mouth, and St Bernard’s all num num num num thanks. Mind you, Bernard‘s hair is more like a baby’s than Shirley-Temple-lap-sitting Jesus here, who points an accusatory finger at the guy pinching his morning tea.

In other pictures, depending on who you talk to, the milk goes into his eye, as the story goes that the milk cured an eye infection he had. Sure thing, Bernard. That guy in the hat doesn’t believe you either.

I like how the dude in the doorway in Master IAM of Zwolle’s version is just awkwardly stopped in his tracks, not sure of what he’s just walked in on.

And look at Jesus kink-shaming Bernard in this 16th Century manuscript. Marvellous.

Either way, Mary is one hell of a shot. Look at that thing, it’s like a laser-guided missile.

Pew pew pew

In closing, I have never wanted so badly to Photoshop a bowl of cereal into a religious painting.