Visions and Dreams in the Iconography of St Dominic. Cases of the 16th–18th Century Dominican and Franciscan Art in Vilnius


  • Birutė Valečkaitė



St Dominic, Dominicans, Franciscans, iconography, visions, dreams


The article analyses how dreams and visions are conveyed in the iconography of St Dominic (Domingo de Caleruega, circa 1174–1221). The analysis is based on the examples of the 16th–18th century artworks that belonged to the Dominican and Franciscan convents in Vilnius, Lithuania. Comparing the images with the texts that shaped their iconography, different types of the visual representation of dreams and visions are distinguished.

The author maintains that accounts based on the testimonies of witnesses to the canonization process helped to form the main attributes of St Dominic, although they usually did not evolve into popular themes in later visionary art. These attributes became the symbols of the Order of Preachers and the figure of its founder in the representation of the famous dream of Pope Innocent III in the Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius. Vi- sionary art that became popular in the baroque era sought to present the exact moment of St Dominic’s vision. Its spectacular compositions overshadowed the previous ways of visualization, as is shown by the examples of the early 16th and 18th-century frescoes from the Churches of Sts Francis of Assisi and Bernardine of Siena and the Holy Spirit in Vilnius. Moreover, in baroque visionary art, legends from a later period were embedded into the iconography of St Dominic as visions of receiving the Rosary or the Portrait of Soriano.

The texts dating back to the times of St Dominic and later legends all describe dreams and visions as encounters between heaven and earth. The examples of artworks from the Dominican and Franciscan convents in Vilnius confirm that the concept of dreams and visions was also expressed in the iconography of St Dominic. In the visual representations of these encounters, the saint was shown as a representative of his Order and a mediator between God, other saints and humankind.

Author Biography

Birutė Valečkaitė

is a museologist, art researcher and exhibition curator. She completed a BA in His- tory of Culture and Anthropology (2013) and an MA in Religious Studies (2015) at Vilnius University. In 2014, she started to work at the Crypts and the Bell Tower of Vilnius Archcathedral administrated by the Church Heritage Museum, and from 2016, works as a coordinator of the Museum’s projects. From 2019, she is a doctoral candidate of the Institute of Art Research of the Vilnius Academy of Arts and is currently writing a dissertation on the theme The Iconography of St Dominic and St Francis in 16th–18th Century Franciscan and Dominican Art in Vilnius: The Significance of Conveying Personality Features and Saintliness for the Formation and Spread of Iconographic Types. In 2021, she curated the exhibition of the Church Heritage Museum devoted to the 800th anniversary of St Dominic’s death, St Dominic and St Hyacinth in Lithuania: Eight Centuries of Memory.

Unknown Lithuanian artist, Infant Jesus sleeping on the cross, 18th c., oil on canvas, photo by Antanas Lukšėnas



How to Cite

Valečkaitė, B. (2021). Visions and Dreams in the Iconography of St Dominic. Cases of the 16th–18th Century Dominican and Franciscan Art in Vilnius. Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis, (106), 176–210.