St Mammes healing oil
The St Mammes healing oil is dedicated to the 3rd century martyr.
According to legend, St Mammes martyred under Emperor Aurelian in Cappadocia in around 275. Highly revered in Asia Minor in early Christian times and described as a “great martyr”. In the 8th century his relics taken to Langres in France and he became patron saint of Langres cathedral.
In around 1540 eight tapestries depicting scenes from his life woven for the chancel. Three still survive, two in Langres and one in the Louvre. After the saint had addressed the wild animals (the subject of one of the two tapestries in Langres), he went on, accompanied by a lion, to visit Duke Alexander (according to the inscription woven into the bottom of the present tapestry; strictly speaking, however, it should Aurelian), who condemned him to death. The saint’s execution can seen in the temple-like building in the middle ground.
The expansive landscape, the confident handling of perspective and the classicizing architecture all point to Italian influences, which may have come from the School of Fontainebleau. This is also suggested by the decorative embellishment of the buildings and the rich ornamentation of the frame. Its astonishing wealth of nuances of colour lead the tapestry to resemble a painting on canvas.
Tradition of oils
The tradition of anointing with sacred oil is very old indeed. It is used in sacraments and also as a devotional practice. The sick person applies the oil and blesses themselves. As they do so, they are asked to pray to whomever the oil is dedicated to. The Irish blessings oils do not have miraculous power. It is God who has the power to heal. Applying the oil while praying are important ways for us to express our faith in God’s power. Moreover, by doing so we place our trust in God.