Two Apostles and an Architect’s Square. Questions of the Genesis of the Iconography of St. Jude Thaddeus and St. Thomas

Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis


  • Sigita Maslauskaitė-Mažylienė



Jude, Thomas, Thaddeus, architect’s square, apostles, Apocrypha, hagiography, iconography


The research seeks to find an answer to the question of why an architect’s instrument – a square – which is related to the hagiographical tradition of St. Thomas the Apostle, also appears in the iconography of St. Jude Thaddeus. For this purpose, apocryphal and hagiographic texts are presented, the origin and meaning of the names of the apostles are emphasised, and the contents of the narratives that had an impact on the iconography are recounted.

The discussed apocryphal and hagiographical texts allow us to assert that an architect’s tool – a square – belongs to St. Thomas and refers to the palace built by the apostle in Paradise and his mission in India. Meanwhile, the appearance of a square in the hands of St. Jude Thaddeus should be regarded as a misunderstanding originating from apocryphal texts, an error that is evident in the iconography of the late Middle Ages and in Lithuanian church art. This confusion is associated with the personal name of Jude: St. Jude Thaddeus and St. Jude Thomas. Jude was one of the most popular names in Israel, while Thomas is not a personal name – Thomas (Greek Δίδυμος, Didimos) means ‘a twin’ and is a person’s description or nickname. It can be seen that the duplication of St. Jude Thomas and St. Jude Thaddeus derives from the gnostic and apocryphal traditions of the 1st–3rd century that not only speak about these namesake heroes, but also testify to their common mission: the apostles St. Thomas and St. Judas Thaddeus were geographically and conceptually related to the evangelisation of India, Syria, and Asia Minor.

In the Middle Ages, the cult of St. Jude Thaddeus deteriorated because of the story of his namesake, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus. Nevertheless, St. Bridget of Sweden in her Heavenly Revelations (Old Swedish Himmelska uppenbarelser, Latin Revelationes, 1492) says that the Lord instructed her to pray to this saint with confidence, because he can save one from hopeless situations in life. After the appearance of Heavenly Revelations, the cult of St. Jude Thaddeus began to spread in Western Europe. An abundance of images of St. Jude Thaddeus is clearly seen in sixteenth-century Western European art, and in the 17th century, the cult of St. Jude Thaddeus spread in Central Eastern Europe: Austria, Czech Republic, and Poland. Encyclopaedias assert that in the 18th century, the personal name Thaddeus became very popular in these countries, and mention Adam Mickiewicz’s poem Pan Tadeusz (1834). In Lithuania, devotion to he patron of hopeless cases, St. Jude Thaddeus, appeared in the eighteenth century: he is depicted both with Jesus and a square, but a square appears statistically more often.

Author Biography

Sigita Maslauskaitė-Mažylienė

is a Lithuanian painter and art historian. She graduated from the Vilnius Academy of Arts in 1996 and studied church heritage at the Gregori­ an University of Rome (1997–2000). In 2006, she defended her doctoral dissertation The Cult and Iconography of St Casimir in the 16th and Early 19th Centuries. Participated in the creation and was the director of the Church Heritage Museum in Vilnius (2009–2022). Associate professor at the Department of History and Theory of Art at the Vilnius Academy of Arts. Teaches History of Christian Art at the Vilnius University. Ambassador of the Republic of Lithuania to the Holy See since 2022.

In addition to teaching, Maslauskaitė­Mažylienė publishes regularly in Lithu­ anian academic journals, works as a painter, museum advisor, and exhibition curator. She received the Lithuanian Government’s Grant (2018) and a medal of the Order of Merit of Lithuania (2015). She published monographs on the history of the image of St Casimir in Lithuanian and Polish (2010 and 2014). Her research interests include the art and culture of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 16th and 18th centuries, written sources of art history, iconography, and cult.



How to Cite

Maslauskaitė-Mažylienė, S. (2023). Two Apostles and an Architect’s Square. Questions of the Genesis of the Iconography of St. Jude Thaddeus and St. Thomas: Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis. Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis, (110-111), 77–99.